Thursday, August 25, 2016

How Twitter Helps Me Learn And Teach

A colleague asked me recently how I use social media to reach out to current undergraduates. It seemed fitting to answer such a question online.

Social media thrive on brevity, so I’ll keep this brief, invite my colleagues (and others) to comment below, and let this social medium be a forum for this topic.

The short answer to my colleague’s question is that I use my social media accounts for two main purposes:
1) to learn about new work in fields that interest me; and
2) to post things that I think might help others learn something new.
Here’s an even shorter answer: as a teacher and researcher, I want to live in a way that’s worth imitating. I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I aim to make my social media accounts an illustration of how I’m trying to do that; I’m trying to live imitably.

There are a lot of social media, and my kids and my students use the social media differently from how I use them. This is not surprising, since we have different aims, and most of mine are professional: to learn from others, and to teach.

It might be easier to show than to tell, so here are links to three of my social media pages, all of which are public. I’ll post the links with some brief comments; have a look at them if you’re interested, and then comment below if you have questions. (Or feel free to reach me on those accounts.)

1) Twitter 
I like Twitter because it forces me to be terse. Click the link and you can see what I post. If you create a Twitter account you can also see who I follow. There are several thousand people in academic philosophy on Twitter, and many others who study things I enjoy learning about, like sharks, and stars, and jaguars. Those I follow tend to post things that help me to learn more about what’s going on in my field. My hope is that students who follow me on Twitter will see something imitable in my curiosity and in my interactions with others.

2) Instagram 
I teach Environmental Humanities - topics like environmental philosophy, ethics, ecology, nature writing, environmental law and policy. I think experience is a big part of learning, and my Instagram account has become a sampling of my wonder and delight in nature (mostly invertebrates, lately.) I hope students who come across it will find my curiosity contagious. I love capturing light.

3) LinkedIn 
One of the great things about LinkedIn is seeing who is hiring. I don’t “connect” with people if we don’t already have another kind of connection, but I do connect with alumni of my school. When I see a job ad or professional advice that looks helpful for my students and alums, I re-post those things for their benefit.

I use social media in part because younger people do, and I like learning new things from a new generation. I also use these media in order to show students what I do.

So what do you think?  What questions do you have?