Social Media at Work

One of the things I love about academia is the breaks we get between semesters. After a busy semester, that builds to a frenzied finish, it’s great to take a few weeks to refresh and recharge. It’s time you can dedicate to learning new things, doing research or working on new courses. Or sleeping. I always have bigger plans for my breaks than I actually accomplish. I had high hopes for this winter break, did about half of them. There’s always the weekends, right?

I did go through the Ruby on Rails training, and I will attend a RoR class next week. I definitely needed to do the pre-work, because I don’t want to be the one non-programmer in the room holding everyone up with important questions like “I’m lost.” Which is not a question at all. I didn’t get to work on making iPhone apps nor did I get much done with research. But, hey… there are still a few days left. Right?

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been working on is this new course Social Media at Work. Take a look at Looks like I’m going to have a lot of non-Mass Comm majors. It’s a reasonably large lecture class, will have about 50 students. I’m used to my tiny lab classes. But, I’m excited about the topic. And the fact that the classroom has windows. I don’t think I’ve EVER taught in a classroom with windows.

My plan is to expose the students to some of the readings that have been influential to me: Chris Anderson, Jeff Jarvis, Lessig, Shirky, Jenkins. We’ll watch several videos, because I really feel that some of this is best coming directly from the source, those that did the work. Download: The True Story of the Internet has some great sections, and I plan to show Rip!: A Remix Manifesto, the documentary about the artist Girl Talk. I also saw Welcome to Macintosh on CNBC last week, and thought that might be a good intro to the Mac v. PC discussion. And, even though it is 10 years old now, I’ll show that History Channel video The Internet: Behind the Web, unless someone has a more current history video to recommend. I still think it is great, the history doesn’t necessarily change and I love that it shows the old computers. It’s always funny when students say things like “I thought the people who invented the Internet were dead.”

Another video I saw last week on CNBC was Planet of the Apps. If I can get my hands on it (or drag out my VCR to copy it – I retired it last year), I’ll show that too. While I was watching it, I probably downloaded 10 apps for my iPhone, as they talked about each one. Nice promo for the few they featured. What about the 80,000 others?

I really want to approach this class in a spirit of innovation. Give them some general things to think about in terms of the role of technology in communication and seek feedback as to how they would implement these tools in their professions. I don’t see a lot of recipes these days, but I do see people using social media tools in unique and innovative ways that work for them. I also just want students to gain a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm about the future of media.

Course development is always interesting. You start with nothing, a blank canvas. It can be pretty overwhelming. But then you start filling in the blanks, one topic leads to another, and so do the readings… and the projects… I know I spent more time procrastinating and stressing about the course, than actually working on it. I usually start with making the Web site. I fill in the blanks on the course outline page, and then eventually things start taking shape. Then I make a paper syllabus that will be outdated the minute I hand it out. But, we have to provide a paper syllabus…

So, I would love your feedback. Take a look at the site and let me know if you have any recommendations for topics or resources. I’m using the book Journalism Next, but just as a road map and supplement to other readings. We’ll blog, tweet, make videos… and take exams. Not exactly sure how I’ll handle those yet.

Here we go. Have a great spring semester!


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