Something is happening at my institution. I seem to be connecting with more of our faculty on Facebook and Twitter. Interest in blogging among faculty is growing, and every week I am hearing of another faculty person starting to blog or tweet.
What is both interesting and encouraging is the topic of conversation in these spaces. They are talking about teaching and learning. They are sharing links and resources. They are connecting with each other and talking about their craft. They are developing their PLN’s, and it is very cool to see happening.
One striking example of what I am seeing occurred recently where I took part in a conversation on Facebook with an instructor who posted the following status update:
How do I measure student engagement in my classroom? How would I evaluate them if I decide not to use exams anymore?
There was a great response from his colleagues and a rich discussion ensued. But then something interesting happened. It wasn’t just other faculty who were responding. There were staff, his friends, his Dean — and students. Students who he was FB friends with weighed in with their opinions on what kind of strategies they thought would engage them. His students were responding to his question, and posting their responses to what others were suggesting. Talk about a rich formative evaluation, done completely informally and naturally, prompted by a simple question posted as a status update.
I am not sure what is going on. Perhaps we are reaching a tipping point where there are enough people now engaged with social networks that where this type of interaction is possible. Perhaps it is because we have a new Dean in Arts and Science. He blogs. He tweets. He connects with his faculty in Facebook. And I think he is setting the tone for his School. Perhaps his presence in these social spaces, talking about both professional and personal things, is making it somehow more inviting for his faculty. I’m not sure. But whatever the reasons, it is great to see and be able to take part in these conversations without having to wait for a once a year conference, or a chance hallway encounter.