Social Is as Social Does: Lehman’s Second Year Faculty Workshops

Often, when I mention working with social media to my colleagues, the y respond with an uneasy blend of curiosity and anxiety. There is a fear of culture shock (What new norms will challenge me? Can I learn the language? Will I like the food?) and an eagerness to try new possibilities if they are low-risk and high-reward.

As an intermediate novice with social media, I try to work from the known to the unknown rather than the reverse. This past week, with our second year faculty workshops, we took this approach in exploring our research and teaching objectives and their potential social media partners.

We began with these questions: What are we already doing with our research that is social? In what ways do our classes engage students in social communications and practices? It’s unlikely for most of us to try something far afield from current methods: when we know what kinds of social creatures we are, then we can begin testing the media that reflect our preferred ways to connect.

Two of our Assistant Professors in the Leonard Lief Library, Rebecca Arzola and Robert Farrell, shared their current experiences as junior faculty of working with listservs and the CUNY Academic Commons in connection with face-to-face meetings with colleagues at Lehman and across CUNY. They feel well connected, and yet, as we looked more closely at their research goals for publication and representation, we noticed that there were places for designing and maintaining professional interest groups and portfolios online that could support their work at a deeper level.

Our Director of the Irish-American Studies Institute also lectures full-time for the English Department. Deirdre O’Boy has begun working with junior faculty in English to develop a promotion and tenure peer group: we suggested that this might become a CUNY-wide group for junior English faculty that could be connected through a CAC group as well as a Twitter feed.

In our discussions, e were more interested in connecting what we do now to social media rather than connecting the new or unfamiliar tools to what we might do. For some of us, Blackboard’s discussion board works as well as a Tumblr or WordPress blog; for others, a Google Site or Digication ePortfolio facilitates non-traditional course management more easily.

Following this line of thought, we took a quick run-through of a list of common class activities (skill-building, content knowledge, writing, and presentations, for example) and connected those with possible social media tools. For example, if incorporating critical thinking exercises form part of my course objectives, I can do a quick Google search for Bloom’s revised taxonomy and find quizzes and exercises that have been designed by other teachers. Hyperlinking (and citing!) these activities to my Blackboard, Moodle, Google, or other course site and asking students to comment on the activity and share their answers creates an  instant and self-designed social media resource.

We reluctantly left our conversation with reminders that our online presence matters: what we design, we must maintain. And we must continue to check on how we are presenting ourselves as well as how we supporting professional academic communications regardless of the depth of our social media investments.

Our handouts can be found in the Files section for the Lehman Faculty Professional Development group. It’s an open group: feel free to join, connect, and explore!

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