Recently, I had the honor to be interviewed by Isaac Moche, the Education Partner Program Manager at HubSpot Academy. We discussed how I use social media as a teaching tool.
You can listen to the entire podcast here or read the transcript of our interview here. Because of the detailed show notes from HubSpot, in this article I want to add some nuances and reflections to what I wasn’t able to share during the podcast interview. If you are looking for specific tactics and examples to use social media as a teaching tool, please make sure to listen to the podcast or read the transcript, where there are lots of detailed examples.
First, let’s get started with the basics.
Who’s Ai Addyson-Zhang?
I am an Associate Professor of Public Relations and Social Media at Stockton University, NJ, United States. I have been teaching communication classes for ten years and have recently started to teach Social Media courses.
Outside academia, I am a firm believer and advocate of using Social Media as a teaching tool. I serve as a social media (pedagogy) consultant. I have recently developed an online course on Social Media Pedagogy (contact me if you want to have free access to the course for a limited time). I am also the host of a weekly Facebook Live Show, Classroom Without Walls: Using Technology to Reimagine Education.
My Journey as a Social Media Professor: Three Takeaways
In the interview, I mentioned that I didn’t become active on social media until March 2015. Why was I late to the game?
I will forever remember March 2015. It was Spring Break. I was at home grading students’ papers. I read in a good student’s paper that he had never heard of Pinterest and he didn’t even know how to spell the word correctly. He wrote in the paper, “Pin…terst…?”. To this day, that word is still imprinted in my mind.
Why was this such a shocker to me? Because I talked about social media in my classes all the time. In fact, I didn’t even remember how many times I lectured the importance of having a basic understanding of the mainstream platforms at least in the United States. Clearly, my teaching was not very effective.
Besides being shocked, I also felt very guilty. Here I was, a Public Relations and Communication professor, and my student didn’t even know how to spell Pinterest. I took the blame personally.
I decided to radically change how I approach social media myself as a college professor. I also saw an urgent need to finally walk the talk.
Little did I know that simple decision to become a better teacher literally transformed my teaching practice & paved a professional career for me that was unthinkable a few years ago. — Tweet this
There are three important takeaways that I gained from this experience.
- Are digital natives also digitally savvy? I learned that our students, so-called “digital natives”, are not necessarily digitally savvy. They are very adept at using social media for social and entertainment purposes. However, they lag behind in terms of using social media as a strategic tool for networking, learning, and professional development purposes. They need to be trained by qualified teachers.
- Walk the talk. Educators need to walk the talk, especially if you are teaching subjects that are highly applied such as communication, public relations, marketing, and business. I made the mistake of not walking my talk. And I felt so thankful for the student who shared that he had never heard of Pinterest. Without that painful wake-up call, I wouldn’t even be where I am today.
- Engage in lifelong learning. A premise to walk the talk is to engage in lifelong learning. I love how public relations and marketing influencer, Deirdre Breakenridge, embodies the spirit of a lifelong student. Unless we embrace the mindset of engaging in lifelong learning, we, as educators, are going to struggle to educate students who are prepared for an increasingly digitized environment. Similarly, I cannot agree more with what education consultant Eric Stoller argued that nobody is only a “digital native” or a “digital immigrant.” In a way, we are all digital natives and immigrants. Becoming digitally literate is a lifelong journey.
Fear of Technology
I cannot not talk about my social media journey without mentioning my fear of technology. If you are reading this post and happen to be apprehensive of technology, please let me assure you that you are NOT alone.
Technology and social media change on a daily basis. Trying to keep up with all the changes is exhausting and overwhelming to say the least. I love how the founder of Social Media Examiner, Michael A. Stelzner, mentioned in a podcast interview that their Friday Social Media show covers at least 20+ changes in social media every single week. It is hard enough for full-time social media marketers to keep up, let alone educators, who have a highly demanding job.
I was consumed by my own fear of technology and of being in front of the camera. I was also afraid of sharing my own ideas with the outside world in written formats such as blogging. In short, I felt lost, scared, and overwhelmed in the rapidly changing digital space.
I wish I had a magic pill to help you overcome your fears. I don’t. But, I learned from my experience that the only way to overcome my fear is by acting on that fear and by taking baby steps. If incorporating five platforms into your classes seems too much, then start with one. That’s exactly how I got started.
I started with Twitter Chats, and that’s it. Incrementally, I added Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Whale, and other sites. Choose one platform that you feel the most comfortable with and go from there, and join supportive networks. Also remember that you don’t have to know everything and be okay with that.
Becoming A Social Media Pedagogy Advocate
I have been on this social media journey for a little over 2.5 years. I couldn’t be more grateful for where I am today. So many opportunities came to me as a result of my digital footprint, such as guest blogging, speaking engagement, research collaborations, book chapter invitations, influencer collaborations, and podcast interviews like this one with HubSpot Academy.
Oftentimes, we teach our students to build their personal brand and digital footprint. However, equally if not more important is that educators, ourselves, need to build our own digital footprints and professional brands. This is not to just walk the talk, but to elevate our own classroom teaching and professional careers to a new level.
For example, I used to struggle with finding guest speakers from the industry for my classes, but now I have a waiting list of professionals who want to share their experiences with my students. I used to feel inadequate because of my lack of professional experience. But, now, I have people approaching me requesting to be coached.
As I shared in the interview, I am no different from many other educators. You are probably more accomplished than me. The key is getting started and being consistent with your effort. Slowly but surely, you will see changes and experience transformations.
To borrow a bit from Gandhi,
Be the change you wish to see in the classroom.
Just do it.
I believe in you.