Tweeting the Liberal Arts


Charlotte Crawford '16 and Rebecca Doser '16

Digital modes of communication are rapidly evolving, reshaping the ways that we communicate and thus altering liberal arts education. During last fall’s Crimmel Colloquium, Christopher Long, dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University, gave an interactive presentation aimed at changing the way we understand modern modes of communication. Using Twitter as the platform for his presentation, Long showed Laurentians that social media and education are not mutually exclusive—the former can, in fact, play a pivotal role in the latter.

Long addressed the omnipresent classroom conflict between engagement and distraction. Saying “I want your divided attention,” he invited the audience to interact with his presentation in real time via the Twitter hashtag #SLUFY15. He thus illustrated how modern tools like Twitter can facilitate engagement, when put to use in the right way. In an educational environment, he said, this is a great way to keep students involved.

“These tools aren't just fun and games...these are tremendously powerful ways to communicate,” Long said. “To press a button and have your information be seen by many...Gutenberg would have been dying for something like that.”

Stephen Barnard, an assistant professor in sociology, was especially active in the live Twitter feed. Barnard, who uses digital communication tools in the classroom, lent a learned perspective to the overall conversation. His tweets, such as “Adapting to change in an increasingly digital world may be discomforting but it's oh so very important #SLUFY15,” regularly popped into the presentation’s live Twitter feed—and with the use of the hashtag, were instantaneously archived for future reference on the web.

Barnard strongly supports Dean Long’s philosophy. “Digital technologies are here to stay, and the more we can do to raise awareness of the academic potential of these tools, the better off we will be,” he says. “The Internet sure does pose an amazing opportunity for people to be life-long learners, but this requires a set of literacies that we should take very seriously going forward.”