Teaching with Twitter—140 characters at a time

For Sara Steffes Hansen, serving as an assistant professor of strategic communication at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is a second career.

Hansen worked for 15 years as a creative-type, director, manager and consultant in strategic communication with high-tech and Fortune 500 companies. Today, she teaches courses in public relations, marketing, advertising and social media in the journalism department @uwoshkosh. But more importantly, she teaches her students to be creative and innovative through up-to-date, real-world tools like Twitter.

Preparing her students, whom she politely refers to as “colleagues,” to enter a high-tech and continuously changing job market has always been important to her. Not only does it encourage her to think outside of the box about classroom lessons, but it also teaches her and her students how to be creative in thinking and learning.

“To be competitive, they should know how to use Twitter and how it fits into public relations, advertising and other communication fields,” Hansen said.

And so, Hansen opens her classroom up to the Twittersphere quite regularly and encourages her students to participate in the online conversation—right from their classroom seats—via their mobile phones or computers. Screens at the front of the classroom even provide up-to-the-second lessons as students tweet about class or use the made-for-class hashtag.

Integrating Twitter into her lectures, Hansen said, changed many things. She said it teaches her students about the importance of being transparent in a public scenario, addresses the intimidation factor of using social media tools and encourages students to learn from each other and be creative.

The times—and teaching—are changing, Hansen said.

“The change is happening so fast that it’s really challenging for a traditional academic program to adjust,” she said. “I’m not just doing this for fun. Don’t get me wrong; it is fun, but I guess I’d rather take a chance and give my students the opportunity to experiment … part of using these tools is knowing how to manage yourself online.”

Learn more about Twitter in the classroom from Hansen’s students.

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