Using Social Media in the Classroom: Preparing Faculty for Change

Using Social Media in the Classroom: Preparing Faculty for Change

Victoria Reynolds
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7763-8.ch008
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This chapter focuses on the unique problem of preparing faculty to meet students by crossing the divide of the digital media native generation. Members of Gen Z, the first of whom are just matriculating to college, hold certain expectations about the availability of information in digital forms, among other things. There is a growing realization, in the higher learning space, that traditional classroom practices are unlikely to meet the needs of Gen Z. Student learning preferences and styles have evolved. It is essential for faculty to investigate ways in which their teaching practices can develop to meet the needs of this generation. This chapter discusses the use of social media to engage students in a topic in the communication sciences and disorders that are seen as difficult and unengaging, augmentative and alternative communication systems. Students were encouraged to challenge their pre-conceptions around ability, and utilizing a digital medium, which in turn incentivized every student to become comfortable with digital technology and familiar with the principles of universal design.
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Who Are Gen Z?

A single, universally-agreed definition of a “generation” is elusive. In defining a generation, sociological theory suggests that there is a time and history component: this is generally interpreted to mean that a generation is a group of people who occupy the same place in time and have a shared knowledge of a memorable historical event (Jansen, 1974). Yet, the term “shared knowledge” is also subjective. It may refer to an awareness, an intimate knowledge or to having been profoundly affected in some way. One possibility is that these phenomena exist on a continuum, in which case each so-called generation will be affected, and therefore shaped, by that “shared knowledge” to different degrees.

Despite the abundance of research about the characteristics of Gen Z, even the major dictionaries of the Anglophonic nations cannot agree on a single definition of this generation. The Macquarie Dictionary, Merriam Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary, generally held to be the authoritative sources for Australian, American and British English, respectively, do not agree on a definition for the “place in time”. Two sources define the birth of Gen Z as occurring in “the late 1990s and early 2000s” and “the early 2000s” (Macquarie Dictionary Online, 2016;, n.d.); one source neatly sidesteps the challenges of agreeing on a birth decade by defining Gen Z as “reaching adulthood in the second decade of the 21st century” (Oxford English Dictionary, n.d.). No source specifically cites a historical event – but all mention technology. Each definition cites one or more different characteristics of Gen Z, ranging from economic behavior (consumerism) to ethical and moral behavior (a sense of social responsibility).

The one common characteristic is a high level of comfort and/or proficiency with technology, defined as “being at ease”, “being familiar” and “tech-savvy” (Macquarie Dictionary Online, 2016;, n.d.; Oxford English Dictionary, n.d.). Is the information age the historical event of Gen Z? This would represent a shift in the nature and duration of occurrences traditionally accepted as “historical events” for the purposes of attempting to define a generation. The information age represents a paradigm shift, similarly to the agrarian and industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Fundamental changes in ways of living, interacting, and in world concepts are experienced by those who live through such events. For those who are born afterwards, those ways are simply the norm.

Gen Z is, like all generations, somewhat nebulous – yet commonalities can be agreed from the wide variability in defintions. Gen Z are becoming adults in this decade (the 2010s) and technology is integrated into their lifestyles, perhaps even into their identities.

By generational definition, faculty and students will always clash. Despite the best of intentions, the age differential between students and faculty means that there is an aspect of the relationship that mirrors that of the “generation of initiation” and the “generation of domination”, respectively (Jansen, 1974, p. 95). Students, who are the younger relation, seek to change societal norms and structures, as every generation before them has done. Faculty, having had the adventure and excitement of enacting change in their younger days, are now resistant to change – having forgotten their own frustrations.

This generational divide is not new, and appears to perpetuate itself. This quote is commonly attributed to ancient scholars such as Socrates or Plato (or both!)

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

It may in fact have unknown origins, but its first reported appearance in the English language literature in 1966 indicates that this dissonance between generations is at least 50 years old (Platt, 1989), although it is likely much older.

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