As a marketing and communications student, I’ve always been taught that you should direct your message to where your audience is. If they read the newspaper, you put ads in the newspaper. If they spend a lot of time in the car, you try to pitch to the radio. And so on.

So maybe it’s just me, but I struggle to understand why so many professors insist on teaching to students via a medium they’re no longer learning in.

In other words, if students are spending all day on Facebook and Twitter, while falling asleep in lectures, perhaps we should be experimenting with teaching them using a slightly different strategy. Instead of teaching using an archaic methodology and forcing students to adapt to how our professors want to teach, maybe our professors should start teaching in the places us students are learning. Instead of treating Facebook and Twitter as distractions and banning laptops from the classrooms, maybe teachers should exercise a little creativity and innovation and find ways of making these social networks tools for enhancing our education (examples really aren’t that hard to find).

It’s this challenge that’s motivated me to start a social media club, AU-SMCEDU (AU Social Media Club for Education), at my university this year. The response has already been overwhelming. Not only have we signed up more than 80 people on our mailing list but we’ve already put plans in motion for a campus-wide “Twitter 101″ panel, a “hashtag the campus” marketing and research campaign, multiple social media-focused research studies, and a groundbreaking conference on social media and education to be held in April.

Despite our early progress, however, this won’t be without it’s challenges. Even on my fairly forward-looking and tech-savvy campus, I have no doubt we will encounter professors not supportive of our cause–in fact, there are probably plenty who are in staunch opposition of even the ideas we promote. I fully expect to hear Gladwell-esque retorts that social media will not change education, and that the way they’ve been teaching has worked for years, so why change? After all, change is hard, new technology is complicated, and the status quo seems to be working just fine, right?

I–and no doubt thousands of my classmates–beg to differ. The status quo is not at all okay. In fact it’s barely tolerable, and those classes that we hate and complain about on Facebook are precisely the ones that refuse to budge from those old-fashioned teaching methods. It’s the classes that push the boundaries, that encourage us to collaborate and converse, and that incorporate how we, as 21st century students, communicate and how we learn that really draw a student in. It’s those classes that have us walking out of the classroom thinking I can’t wait to blog about this.


So we press on. Our road will no doubt have potholes and barriers along the way, but already the future is looking bright. We have an enthusiastic advisory board of professors fully supportive of our cause, and we have numerous organizations expressing a strong interest in playing a role in this potentially transformative movement. So let’s do it–let’s make education social.

Learn more about the SMCEDU movement on our Ning group at, and be sure to “like” our campus group on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep up with our progress.

Alex Priest is a senior at American University. Find out more about him here.



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