Social Media + Critical Thinking = Evolving Course Assignments

For the last two weeks, I have been planning this fall’s course assignments for my English and English education courses, and I’ve been searching for suggestions on using social media in the classroom. There is no dearth of information out there, but Terry Heick’s recent blog, “10 Strategies to Help Students Use Social Media for Critical Thinking,” proved to be the most resource. I used it as a checklist to determine the efficacy of my ever-changing course assignments.

Of all the strategies listed, I focused on two: “Amplify Cognition” and “Extend Conceptual Comfort Zones.” When considering the depth of knowledge required for critical thinking, I appreciated Heick’s strategy of documenting the process of ideas – where they come from and how they evolve. Thinking about concepts as evolving, especially as displayed in social media, is useful in pushing students to deeper considerations of what is posted and reposted.

Heick’s call to extend conceptual comfort zones reminded me that learning requires taking risks. Six months ago, when I first started blogging for ProF, I was a reluctant writer. After reading blogs from a variety of sources, some completely out of my area of expertise, I have not only honed my blog writing skills, but I now use other disciplines and discourse communities as means of content for my own field.

Certainly there are many more blogs for using social media in critical ways, but Heick’s straight-forward list is a worthwhile starting point. I am now planning an activity where my future high school teachers use social media’s perceptions of the Oxford comma as fodder for their own grammar instruction. Regardless of our own teaching discipline, the use of social media will no doubt shape our work in ways that we may not even predict. I am ready to extend beyond my comfort zone—are you?