Social Media for Teaching and Learning

Nearly 8,000 professors were surveyed about their own social media habits, their use of social media as an instructional tool, and their perceptions about the way their students use social media. Pearson* and the Babson Survey Research Group conducted the survey, and Edudemic has posted the results and the infographic below.

Looking the results and thinking about my own experiences, I have a couple of questions.

First, I’d love to know more about how professors are using social media, not just which forms of social media are being used most frequently. In particular, I’m wondering about the intensity of use. Sure, Facebook can be a teaching tool if you accept friend requests from your students; but if you’re holding Facebook chat hours and supervising a class Facebook page where your students are also posting, well, then, you’re really using Facebook as a teaching tool.

As an aside, I’ll share that I recently ran into a professor who joined LinkedIn primarily to connect with alumni of her current institution. Her goal was to find participants for a career panel in order to demonstrate how her department’s major can lead to a variety of exciting careers. Social media: it’s not just for teaching, it’s also for mentoring.

Second, regarding students and social media, this survey hits on something that I’ve been mulling over lately: the tension between the benefit of having students write for a larger audience and the cost in terms of a loss of privacy for the students. It does strike me as reasonable that if we are asking students to wrestle with big ideas, we ought to also allow for the protections that privacy affords as students refine their thoughts. And yet, research demonstrates that writing for an audience beyond the classroom has clear advantages. I’m interested in hearing what others think about this issue.

(click to enlarge)

social media statistics - faculty us climbing, conerns about privacy remain.Source:

*While Pearson is the company behind LearningStudio (which we use here at TCU), there’s no larger connection between Pearson and this blog post.

Presenting the new TCU Koehler Center Sites

As mentioned in our blog, last week, we have the new and improved TCU Koehler Center blog, the “Teaching Toolbox.”   Along with this new name and goals, we are unifying our department’s online presence.  We realize that name changing in social media is a little taboo, but we hope it won’t be too disruptive for the user experience and that you will benefit from our expanded coverage of teaching topics!

Why the change, y’all?

Our social media accounts had been set up just for the elearning side of the house, but the reality is that we are one team.  We are the Koehler Center.

As our mission statement says, “We support teaching and learning and help faculty implement meaningful learning opportunities for their students.”  We wanted to better represent ourselves as the Koehler Center, involved with fostering professional development, active learning, teaching strategies, and educational technology, among other great topics!

Out with the old…

All of this being said, we are trading in our old blog url, twitter name, and facebook URL, and moving to a new simple name for all.

Connect with us

Please bookmark, subscribe, like and follow to our new sites!  Click the icons below to connect with us.

Connect with the TCU Koehler Center


TCU Koehler Center Blog: Teaching Toolbox


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Our best to you – –

The TCU Koehler Center team

Your Internet Costume

Happy Halloween! This Halloween post may not be as gory as last year’s Halloween blog post, but the issue of one’s internet identity (real, imagined, or embellished) seems like a good fit on a day of costumes and mischief.

First, check out On the Internet, I am a Ballerina, from the Texas Wesleyan Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. I would like to take this moment to assure you that no matter what you find about me on the internet, in real life I am a ballerina. And a professional chef. And an award-winning undersea photographer. Kidding. Or not. Trick or treat, right? In all seriousness, the post above has some great tips and resources that you might share with your students to help them manage their digital identities – an increasingly important concern for those seeking employment or graduate school admission.

However, it’s not just about the students. I know a faculty member who had a prospective department Google his name, find his wedding registry from several years prior, skim the registry for the information the registrants had listed about themselves, click on the link to the bride’s travel blog, and then spend some time reading the blog. All’s well that ends well: the blog was fairly innocuous, the applicant did get a job offer from said department, and life has proceeded swimmingly. But the eerie part about the whole scenario? All this happened when the faculty member was in a heightened state of awareness about his digital identity and privacy. How about those of us a few years distant from the job market? I know I’m not as a vigilant as I once was. Or how about those of us who found our jobs years before this was such a concern? Perhaps it’s time to give the above link and embedded resources a peek. For a faculty-specific take on this, Notre Dame’s Kaneb Center has a great piece on your online persona as a faculty member. ProfHacker has also covered the subject of creating and maintaining a professional presence online.

If you’re a Twitter user, here is some specific insight on managing your academic Twitter identity.

If you’re a Facebook user, you might find this short independent video about Facebook and your internet identity interesting:

If you’re a believer in the whole the-best-defense-is-a-good-offense strategy, this is a nice summary of what you might want to put on your faculty website. If you’ve already set up a website, the suggestions can serve as a good checklist. In addition to helping you control your own digital identity, a good faculty website can help your students, colleagues, and interested community or media members learn about and contact you.

Regarding your students, here are some strategies to let your personality shine through in your course shells. Note that you don’t have to wear a costume or create an online personality out of thin air (“this year I want to be . . . Beowulf Professor!”). Rather, all you need to do is share the most engaging version of yourself. An easy way to get started with this is to include a sparkling instructor bio with a photograph or some audio / video footage of yourself. More specifically, the Koehler Center has some information, tips, and templates for creating instructor bios.

Now that we’ve gotten the essential pieces out of the way, I want to leave you with a little metaphysical candy treat. Below is a video from Alan Levine, the Vice President and Community Technology Officer of the New Media Consortium. The video is longer than most we share here, but it’s a great philosophical exploration of our online, offline, and in between identities – and the way we actively shape them and the way they are shaped for us. (Is this the process of being disembodied? Or unified? Who’s wearing the costume now?)

Students, Technology, and Crunch Time

A recent study finds that:

[While] students are tech-savvy and have plenty of gizmos, they may not be as distracted by these technologies as some may think . . . Results showed that students take a “less is more” approach when exam pressure starts bearing down. Students use technology to help them study and to communicate with others, the report found. And students are using the library less for its traditional resources — books, journals, etc. — and more as a place to get away from the hectic world around them.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that “65 percent [of students interviewed] said they used social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, to coordinate study sessions or group work.”

Social media isn’t just a coordination tool for students, it can also be a study tool: “nearly two-thirds of the respondents said they had used social media for coursework. One student said he was having trouble understanding concepts in his physics class, so he researched lessons on YouTube, which helped him catch up with the coursework.”

Have you noticed students leveraging social media for learning purposes in your courses?

Last, here’s hoping that – however the studying happened – this is a successful exam week for all parties!


Digital flashcards are an easy way for your students to study on the go, mix up their studying strategies while in front of their computers, and study collaboratively. As the season of studying for final exams approaches, this post reviews flashcard resources you can share with your students.

All the options below are free, and allow for online and mobile flashcard use. In all instances, users can create and share their own flashcard sets or use existing sets found on the site. Additionally, all of these sites will count right and wrong answers and provide that data to the student.

Quizlet: Quizlet bills itself as the largest quiz / flashcard / study games site, so if students are looking for ready-made flashcards, this is probably the most promising avenue. Quizlet uses audio in type-what-you-hear exercises; in addition, there are several study games into which Quizlet will plug your desired content. There is an optional Facebook integration that will let you share flashcard sets with friends and see sets they have created. Quizlet has iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Nook, Windows Phone, and Android apps.

StudyStack: StudyStack really shines in the game department. If you – or your students – are looking to do something different with matched pairs of data, StudyStack has the game for you: matching, crosswords, hangman, scrambled words, etc. This site, however, also features some pretty distracting, busy ads on the top and right-hand side of the screen. Mobile apps for StudyStack (for Android, iPhone, iTouch, Windows Phone, and Blackberry) are all third-party apps into which you place exported StudyStack data – this is an additional step to make StudyStack flashcards mobile, but not a difficult one.

StudyBlue: StudyBlue flashcards also support audio files. There is also a suggestion wizard that will associate the terms in cards you create with the 30 other most relevant cards on the topic. Cards are mapped visually to related terms and ranked by usefulness. Students also have the ability to compare the answers on multiple similar flashcards. StudyBlue has flashcards for non-Latin alphabets. StudyBlue is available in iPhone / iPad / iTouch, Android, and Kindle versions.

Memrise: Memrise has a pretty slick site, although the site does note that it is still in beta / development, and has a published bug list. The focus of existing content is foreign languages. Memrise is a little gimmicky: learning is framed around a garden metaphor, in which your decision to start learning (create / enter a course and focus on specific content) is “planting the seed”, practicing the content is growing / watering the plants, and when knowledge is secure and strong, plants are then moved to “the garden”.  The Memrise concept markets itself as being built on neuroscience; for this reason, users attach a “mem” to each character / word / concept they are trying to learn, a technique designed to enhance content retention. I was only able to find Memrise apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

Anki: Anki’s key feature is format freedom, meaning that you are able to input information in any way you wish, rather than relying on predefined styles. Anki will also allow large decks of cards (up to 10,000 cards). Users note that it can handle non-Latin alphabets with ease. Additionally, Anki claims to be optimized for low bandwith access. Anki is open-source; It will run on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, any smartphone, several game systems, iPod Touch, and iPad; it will not work with Palm devices or ereaders from what I can discern.

For those who live life in the Google cloud or for those less inclined toward bells and whistles, there’s gFlash (for idevices, Android, and Blackberry), which will make mobile-friendly, shareable flashcards from the data in a Google Spreadsheet. GFlash is also a content partner of some of the above quiz sites; for an upgrade fee, you can have access to their ready-made flashcard databases.

Last, I want to mention Mnemosyne. This is a flashcard program plus an ongoing memory research project. This means that Mnemosyne will anonymize, track, store, and then submit your success rate in recalling information back to the creators of the program; they then use this to improve the algorithm that generates how frequently you see which cards. There is a high degree of transparency: you can review the log that will be sent, the software is open-source, and the data generated is publicly available. I think it’s a pretty, elegant cool idea.Your data is assigned an untraceable random number, but if participating in the on-going research makes you uncomfortable, you can also use Mnemosyne without opting to share your use pattern. There is support for images, audio files, scientific and mathematical notations, and non-Latin alphabets. You can also make a “three-sided card”: associating a word, its translation, and its pronunciation. Mnemosyne is also available in several languages. Mnemosyne is a program you download; it’s primarily aimed at computer users, although there is a plugin that will allow you to use it on Android, Blackberry, and other phones/devices that support Java.



I’ve come across a few “shortcuts” articles recently. Here’s one on iPhone shortcuts (Private broswing? Siri to Twitter? Weekly view in the Calendar? Street view in maps? Yes, please!).

And here’s one on Facebook keyboard shortcuts (A faster way to like photos? A quick way to return to the home screen? A speedy way to bring up your messages? All good things!).

I also have a little plea for some shortcuts and tips. Here in the office, we’ve just stated using Google Spreadsheets for a big project. I’ve found (and been using) this list of Google Spreadsheet shortcuts, but I’d love to hear what other people are doing to make their Google Spreadsheet experience as smooth as possible.

A Facebook Page for your Class?

Would you? Could you?

Despite the expansion of social media sites, a new study shows that students overwhelmingly prefer an official course Facebook page for class collaboration. Students have asked professors to set up these pages; absent instructor action, they’ve even done it themselves.

A course Facebook page wins big on the grounds of efficiency – most students check their Facebook pages frequently, and so would quickly see course news. It would be interesting to see whether students prefer a course Facebook page to course site within a learning management system (like LearningStudio). I can see that Facebook would work well with setting up study groups. But I think it would be easier to discuss readings within the format of a threaded discussion, and it seems much easier to share files within a course shell than over a Facebook page.

Of course, using Facebook as an additional venue for course information might not be a bad plan, but there are a few things to consider. Not all students have Facebook accounts or wish to mix their Facebook account with their school peer group; these students may be left out of the loop if the Facebook site eclipses the course shell as a collaboration venue. On the other hand, if the students themselves are setting up these pages, a professor might as well take the bull by the horns and publicly invite the whole class to join a Facebook page.

What do you think? Would you set up a Facebook page for your class? Would be bothered if your students did?