Let’s Talk ‘Teaching for Tolerance’ on Twitter in Honor of International Day for Tolerance

Today – Monday, November 16 – is the International Day for Tolerance. Education, whether it happens in the classroom or online, is one of the crucial ways our society can advance tolerance and inclusion, so it’s more important than ever to acknowledge this occasion within our Lesley teaching community by having important conversations. Today, we invite you to join in the discussion about teaching for tolerance on Twitter.

eLIS will be Tweeting throughout the day from our account (@lesleyelis) using #ToleranceDay @lesley_u. Feel free to watch for new content, retweet us, or share your own experiences, ideas and opinions with the hashtag #ToleranceDay @lesley_u.

And don’t forget that the conversation doesn’t have to stop after today! Social media is an excellent tool for building and strengthening our institutional community. Join us on Twitter anytime to connect and collaborate with fellow faculty members throughout the university.

Learning Beyond the Classroom: Case Studies of Teaching and Learning with Social Media

This post is adapted from a poster presentation developed by eLIS staff and Lesley faculty for the New England Faculty Development Consortium (NEFDC) fall conference:

The use of social media in higher education teaching and learning is becoming increasingly common every year. Many faculty are enthusiastic about the prospect of using social media tools to extend classroom walls and create technology-enhanced learning activities that are relevant for their students’ lives. Against this backdrop, however, faculty need to be mindful of recent FERPA legislation, as well as consider the establishment of best practices for facilitating authentic, learner-centered social media experiences that are respectful of students’ privacy wishes.

Below are four case studies from Lesley University faculty members to offer further insight into best practices for teaching and learning with social media.

Communities of Practice


Real-World Inquiry


Professional Development


Instructor Communication



Although social media was used for different purposes in each of these cases, some common threads tie them together. The following are recommendations for teaching with social media based on the intersections in these cases.

  • Connect instructional use of social media to learning outcomes (Bosman& Zagenczyk 2011)
  • Provide very basic instructions for students to get started
  • Explain basic functionality and norms of the social media tool
  • Build specific activities into course design
  • Scaffold opportunities to interact with peers and others
  • Respect student privacy across student-led and instructor-led experiences
  • Educate students about privacy considerations and appropriate use
  • Articulate communication protocols and norms for each class
  • Plan for maintenance of communities in between class settings


Best Practices for Teaching with Social Media, Instructor-Led Assignments

  • Provide option to opt-out or alternate assignment
  • Provide option not to use real names or real locations
  • Link to basic tutorials
  • Let students know that they can delete accounts or “unfriend” in the end
  • Connect assignment to learning outcomes and assess learning according to rubric
  • Never provide individual feedback to students publicly

Best Practices for Student-led Social Media Use

  • Students should present themselves authentically and adhere to institution social media policy
  • Apply best practices of instructor-led assignments where applicable

Integrate the social media within the course site

  • Link the social media participation to the course in the LMS through dynamic RSS feed and/or links to the course hashtag

Next Steps

What did we gain from our inquiry? We were able to identify three key areas for further work.

Faculty Professional Development

  • Promote institutional community building with social media (upcoming: #ToleranceDay @lesley_u)
  • Provide workshop for faculty on analyzing social media platforms (January 2016)
  • Evaluate need to offer existing online seminar Using Twitter to Develop a PLN in Spring 2016

Enhancement of Institutional Policy

  • Extend existing Appropriate Use Policy with expanded Social Media Policy

Exchange of Curricular Materials Using Social Media

  • Create space for sharing sample assignments, rubrics and instructions amongst faculty teaching with social media

To learn more about initiatives related to teaching and learning with social media at Lesley, look us up on twitter @lesleyelis.


Bosman, L., & Zagenczyk, T. (2011). Revitalize your teaching: creative approaches to applying social media in the classroom. In B. White, I. King & P. Tsang (Eds.), (pp. 3-15) Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. Emerging technologies in distance education, 109-128.

Englander, E. (2013). Bullying and cyberbullying: what every educator needs to know. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Herbert, M. (2006). Staying the course: a study in online student satisfaction and retention. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 9(4).

Journell, W., Ayers, C. A., & Beeson, M. W. (2014). Tweeting in the classroom: Twitter can be a smart instructional tool that links students with real-time information and connects them to authentic discussions beyond school walls. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(5), 53.

Sample, Mark. (2010, August 16) A framework for teaching with Twitter. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/a-framework-for-teaching-with-twitter/26223

Celebrate National Poetry Month with Apps!

Mix poetry and technology?
Yes! Try these apps.
They’re  fun and free!

April is National Poetry Month and that means it’s the perfect time to take advantage of technology to discover, read, or listen to poetry, or even to write and record your own. Whether you teach poetry, or just want to enjoy it or know more about it, you’ll find the apps listed below all offer a different way to experience this exciting world of words. The apps listed here are just a small sample of what’s out there, and are limited to apps that are free.

poetry_found_appPoetryfrom The Poetry Foundation, is a wonderful resource that gives you a portable library of thousands of classic and contemporary poems. It’s a great way to discover new poets and poems or just to look for your old favorites. Of special interest is the “spin” feature, which finds poems by random combinations of subject and mood. You can also manipulate these combinations manually, so you can find a perfect poem to suit the moment.  A large variety of poems and poets are included, ranging from Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe to Lucille Clifton and Billy Collins. Audio versions of some of the poems are available as well. Favorite poems can be saved and shared. New poems are added monthly and more poems are available on The Poetry Foundation website.

the_poetry_apThe Poetry App, by the Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation, provides an opportunity to see and hear classic poetry performed by professional actors. The app, which has a rather attractive and unusual interface, includes over 100 poems by 16 poets. It offers text versions of each poem, audio and/or video introductions and performances of the poetry, and background essays on the poets and their poems. There’s even an option to write, record, save, and share your own poetry. Thirty or so actors (Ralph Fiennes and Roger Moore among them) read the poems. The poets represented are mostly British and American “classic” poets, so it’s not an app for contemporary poetry, and it’s not the largest selection, but it’s an enjoyable way to experience various interpretations of the works of some great poets read by some great actors. The interface includes some hidden interviews and performances to discover as well. Favorites in text, video or audio can be saved and shared.

poetry_daily_appPoetry Daily, by Poetry Daily, is a handy little app if you want exposure to new poetry or poetry publications but don’t know where to look or don’t have a lot of time to go searching. It delivers a new poem to your device every day. Poems are contemporary and are chosen from new books, magazines and journals. Each poem includes a short note about the poet and the publication in which the poem currently appears and provides a link to the publisher. There are also options to find random poems, search the archive, and save and share favorites.

fridge_appFridgePoems, by Color Monkey, is a new app that’s pretty basic but it can be addictive and great for inspiring your inner poet. It mimics magnetic “fridge poetry” without the fridge! For those unfamiliar with the concept, you are provided with a limited selection of words and you can use as many (or as few) of the words as you’d like and arrange them any way you’d like on a virtual “fridge” to create your poems. The program lets you take a snapshot, save, and share your poetic masterpieces. You can also purchase additional word sets. There are a number of these types of apps available, so you may find others you want to check out with different interfaces and additional word choice options.

Poetry Everywhere, by WGBH,gbh_app is an app for the Poetry Everywhere project, created a few years ago by WGBH and David Grubin Productions in association with the Poetry Foundation. Basically, this app offers the chance to attend a poetry festival on your mobile device. It features videos of contemporary poets reading their own works with introductions by Garrison Keillor. Although the app itself only has 20 or so poems, more poems and poets are available from both the Poetry Foundation and the PBS Poetry Everywhere websites. The PBS site still highlights a different poem each day and includes a closed caption option for viewing the poems. Both websites also include student-created animated films of some of the poems, offering unique visual interpretations.

ravenThe Raven, by vNovel Interactive, offers an atmospheric version of the famous Edgar Allan Poe poem. This presentation of the “The Raven” comes with a spooky audio reading and accompanying artwork, as well as music and sound effects to enhance the mood and experience of the poem (including the “rapping” and “tapping” on the chamber door). The app was created a few years ago, and there isn’t much in the way of interactivity, other than to choose to have the poem read to you (recommended) or to read it yourself, but it’s still a nice example of how images and sound can be used effectively to enhance text. It’s also just a fun way to experience the poem.

Have you had success using any of these apps or other technology to teach or enjoy poetry? Perhaps you have a favorite app, website, or software that you’d like to recommend? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

All of the apps listed here are available for iPhone and iPad and Poetry, from The Poetry Foundation, and The Poetry App are also available for Android. If you would like to know more, or are interested in suggestions about how these apps might be used, feel free to contact elis@lesley.edu.

New Online Seminar: Twitter as a Learning Tool

twitter_iconPlease join eLIS for a fully online two-week seminar in myLesley. This class is designed to introduce participants to social media through the lens of Twitter. Participants will collaboratively explore the functionality of the tool by employing specific networking strategies discussed during the class.

Never used Twitter? No problem! We’ll work with you to learn the ins and outs of this popular social media platform.

Twitter as a Learning Tool runs from April 8th – April 21st.

Register for the Seminar

In addition, we are also hosting a brief webinar on Monday, April 8th at 3 PM EST. The Twitter as a Learning Tool: Kickoff Webinar will introduce participants to the basics of Twitter, including a walk-through of the technical logistics, how to sign-up for an account, and an exploration of the unique Twitter vocabulary. Anyone who is new to Twitter (whether you plan to participate in the two-week seminar or not) is welcome to attend.

Register for the Webinar

We look forward to tweeting with you!

Understanding Social Media and the Networked Society


During last month’s eLearning Institute @ Faculty Development Day, I led a workshop titled Understanding Social Media and the Networked Society.  Within this session, workshop participants and I discussed the role of networked technologies in contemporary American society, first delving into some of the theoretical foundations and then identifying specific strategies for effectively utilizing social media to foster both personal and professional development.  We examined both the many opportunities and potential challenges presented by this increasingly networked world, looking into current research and theoretical discourse, attempting to reconcile the different outlooks. For example, to what extent do social networks allow us to learn from The Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki, 2004), or are we living within the Cult of the Amateur (Keen, 2007)?  How do we best utilize the Cognitive Surplus (Shirky, 2010) afforded by social media and avoid the superficial frenzy of The Shallows (Carr, 2011)?  By engaging with social networks, are we active, contributing members of a Participatory Culture (Jenkins, 2006), or are we simply Alone Together (Turkle, 2011), developing hollow, meaningless connections and increasing isolation?

Participants engaged in conversation on the changes in cultural norms and values, examining the shifts in how people work, share, and create.  To what extent do technology and social media provide access to connections, resources, and new knowledge?  How can we, as educators, utilize social media to effectively cultivate both personal and professional learning networks?  We then focused pragmatically on specific strategies, policies, and ways of thinking that will help participants to thoughtfully and effectively participate in this networked society.  I hope this session might serve as the beginning of a larger conversation.  eLIS is holding an online Social Media Seminar in April, 2013 for Lesley faculty and staff that will encourage participants to consistently put theory into direct practice.  We will be using Twitter as the specific tool through which to understand social media and networked technologies, connecting with colleagues to learn with and from one another.

Regardless of your personal attitude toward technology’s growing presence in our lives – let’s say on a continuum from unbridled excitement to cautious optimism to rigid skepticism – research illustrates that engagement with media and new technology is only becoming more and more ubiquitous.  A recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that young people between the ages of eight and eighteen consume a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content per day, which translates to 7 ½ hours of media consumption via multitasking. This number demonstrates an increase of almost 2 ¼ hours of media exposure per day over the past five years. The increased prevalence of new media and technologies requires young people to acquire the knowledge, skills, and vocabulary necessary to safely and respectfully engage virtually.  The Common Core Standards specify that “[j]ust as media and technology are integrated in school and life in the twenty-first century, skills related to media use (both critical analysis and production of media) are integrated throughout the standards.”  Similarly, media literacy and critical thinking have been identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills as essential 21st Century Student Outcomes.  Additionally, there have been an increasing number of media education initiatives spawned by outside organizations, such as Common Sense Media and the Media Education Foundation.  In a report presented by Edudemic, 44.8% of professors and 45% of k-12 teachers use social media for professional use.

As educators, we are responsible to not only understand our learners – how they connect, share, and relate – but also build environments that deliberately foster the development of meaningful connections, promoting deep intellectual convergence, thoughtful synthesis, and new knowledge.  What are the design decisions that help to foster collaborative learning?  How do we encourage all learners to understand that with this right to connect comes the responsibility to contribute effectively?  Prior to their release of the book Spreadable Media, authors Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green released a number of Web Exclusive essays.  The essay Learning to a be Responsible Circulator by Christopher Weaver and Sam Ford highlights this need to be more deliberate in how we participate in this networked world:

[a] spreadable media environment by its very nature fosters a more participatory society. Yet, in a culture where a majority of the audience has access to a ubiquitous communication environment, each person should hold a greater level of personal responsibility for establishing credibility of both content and sources… In order for a ‘spreadable media’ environment to flourish, citizens must be taught the necessary skills to independently assess the validity of what is being shared with them and to carefully choose what they share with others.

In order for us to capitalize upon the affordances of today’s networked society and strive for some sort of utopian vision of connected living, we must actively choose how we engage. We must understand that the promise of networked living is not about the individual gain – it’s more about bolstering the collective knowledge of a larger community.  In Alone Together, Sherry Turkle makes the point that today’s digital world is still quite new, reminding us that we have the opportunity to determine how we engage with these technologies. For example, a tool like Twitter can serve as a means to learn with and from others across the world. But the paradigm-shifting power of Twitter is not at the individual level.  The power lies in the collective that can emerge through the thoughtful participation of engaged Twitizens (I know).  According to educator and connected learning activist Howard Rheingold’s article on Twitter Literacy,

Twitter is not a community, but it’s an ecology in which communities can emerge. That’s where the banal chit-chat comes in: idle talk about news, weather, and sports is a kind of social glue that can adhere the networks of trust and norms of reciprocity from which community and social capital can grow.

This concept of reciprocity is inherently linked to responsibility. In order for these connected environments to flourish, we – as members of the learning community – must actively participate in the dialectical engagement that fosters depth of connection.  How do we, as educators and designers, build for reciprocity?  How do we encourage participants to adopt a mindset that supports the good of the group rather than the individual?

I wanted to end with a quotation from filmmaker Tiffany Shlain’s recently released documentary Connected.  Connected is a profoundly personal film that explores how both the private and public spheres are shaped by today’s increasingly networked world.  Shlain states within her film that “for centuries we’ve been declaring independence… And perhaps it’s time to finally declare interdependence.”  Shlain advocates for this necessary paradigm shift, asking us to not only acknowledge and embrace our connectedness but also accept the accompanying responsibilities.