A six-person panel of UMW faculty from across campus gave its take on digital learning in the classroom last night during “Web Culture in the Disciplines.” The presentation at the Hurley Convergence Center was the latest installment in the second annual Digital Liberal Arts series, hosted by the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies.
Instructional Technology Specialist Lee Skallerup Bessette moderated the discussion, which explored the dynamics of incorporating social media into coursework and of working in public education in the year 2017.
While the onslaught of information available on outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and more makes it easier to find information, share ideas and pull students into public conversations, the panelists agreed, it also makes it harder to distinguish between accuracies and inaccuracies, and opinion and fact.
The faculty members opened up about how they, as academics, rely on and interact with social media. John Broome, associate professor in UMW’s College of Education, for example, said he uses online content to connect with members of his field. Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Jason Robinson named Instagram as his favorite social medium for discovering visual pieces that “previously would have just been a picture hanging in a gallery.”
Professor of Classics, Philosophy and Religion Mary Beth Matthews shared a personal story about a video posted online after the publication of her second book. The clip attracted a segment of the population she hadn’t expected to engage. “It has opened up a different way for me to look at my own work,” she said.
For students, said Associate Professor of German Marcel Rotter, the seemingly endless supply of readily available information online can make citing reliable sources more of a chore. Associate Professor of History and American Studies Will Mackintosh said communicating on social media has affected the way he instructs students to address questions of voice and audience. “It’s really shaped the way I teach writing,” he said.
All the panelists said they stress to students the importance of taking a conscious approach to what they share online. “It’s not just about not embarrassing yourself,” said Associate Professor of Political Science Chad Murphy. Past posts – no matter how long ago – can make a difference to future employers.
“One of the great things about teaching at a liberal arts school is being able to work with students individually,” Murphy said. “You can ask them, ‘What do you want to do with your digital identity?’ ”