Comm Class Breaks from Social Media Overload

In her first semester of teaching, Lisa Silvestri, Communications Studies associate professor, found herself in an inspiring situation. Students in her Inter-personal and Small Groups Communication class organized and participated in a 48-hour social media sit-out. For two days, they refrained from checking their phones for new Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram notices, YikYak conversations or a host of other activities that consume an extraordinary amount of time.

The break was student conceived and organized, Silvestri says, although it was prompted by a time survey where students were asked to record when they were using social media.

How many social media outlets can you name? Take our challenge here!

Senior communications major Colten Cain’s time study revealed he spent 13 hours engaged in social media during a 72-hour period. It was a wake-up call.

“I love social media,” Silvestri says. “I think digital communication is the way of the future, but it can’t come at the expense of your immediate network.”

And if nothing else, the “extra” time away from texting and posting selfies can be used for other types of productivity and enjoyment.

“I knitted a whole scarf last night, because I had so much more time,” says Ellie Stephenson, junior, sociology.

Teaching Tweet Back

By Eli Francovish (’15)

Social media doesn’t usually facilitate learning. In-class texting, Facebooking and tweeting can be the bane of a professor’s existence. That said, one Gonzaga professor fi gured out a creative way to integrate social media and school. Last fall Molly Pepper’s Management 350 class provided written feedback at the end of every lesson, then she tweeted select responses.

“Part of Ignatian pedagogy* is to ask students to refl ect on things,” Pepper says. “And I thought this would be a nice way to make students just pause for a minute at the end of class and think, ‘What am I walking out the door with? What was important to me today?’ ”

It was an idea Pepper discovered while at a conference. After each session she fi lled out a similar “Tweet” card. It forced her to slow down and focus on what she’d learned, and she returned to her classroom hoping to create that same refl ection in her students.

Learning from Students

One unintended, but positive, consequence of the exercise was Pepper learning what parts of her lectures stuck with students.

“Typically, every class would boil down to three things,” Pepper says, “and it was never what I thought it would be.”

That feedback was invaluable to Pepper. In some ways it was like a comment card at a restaurant, providing her with day-to-day pointers on her teaching. “That was good,” she says. “It told me what I didn’t know.”

The exercise motivated her to be more disciplined about tweeting articles out to her students, as well as providing recaps of each class on Twitter.

*Ignatian pedagogy is a method of teaching taken from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. The five elements are: Context, Experience, Reflection, Action and Evaluation, which foster the learner’s growth and development


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