Blurring Physical and Digital Lines




In response to an earlier blog, Dr. Pignetti commented about being interested in how I will incorporate what I learn from this course into my own pedagogy. Of course, I have had this on my mind as I re-evaluate my audience, revise old lesson plans, create new activities on Blackboard and strive to be student-centered instructor.  As I read Longo’s “Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making,,” I struggled with the assumption that all students participate in social media, especially since much the research etc. was from over five years ago. However, I do realize, he is assuming students are traditional university students age 18-23, and most likely students from urban, not rural, environments. However, I do recognize the “participatory culture” of this generation even in a rural area where I teach. Prior to this reading though, I had not equated this culture with social-media. Nonetheless, I realize without making that connection, my pedagogy does include “this participatory approach to teaching and learning based on the idea that most students learn more effectively through the incorporation of experiential activities” ( Longo, 2014, pg 30). Perhaps my high school teaching experience has influenced teaching style of my college classes. Usually the traditional lecture sets the stage and provides background and then students join in the teaching/learning.

Longo acknowledges “the balancing act that becomes acute in active learning environments,” where students learn collaboratively, yet the professor is still the authority of the class content. When my students work in groups online, I am included in the forum and have access to their chat room. I do not dominate the conversation or guide them to certain conclusions per se, but do check that they are on task and ask questions to further their collaboration.  I have used the tools in Blackboard to do this, such as Blackboard Collaborate, Blogs, Wikis, discussion rooms and chat. I haven’t included forms of social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. since there is such an age gap and technological skill gap among students. In addition, there is no time available in the curriculum to teach how to use social media.


Many of my younger students reflect the participatory culture and desire to share on the first day of classes. For example, they often immediately share their phone numbers, snapchat id, and full names in order to connect on Facebook. My older students are less likely to welcome this technological communication or enter that community. However, since my classes all have an online component, even these students quickly adjust to participating in the online community of our class and classmates and their lives. However, I still find that it is imperative for many of my returning adult students to actually meet me face-to-face. Therefore, I travel to the five regional locations. Since Blackboard now can include our picture with our posts etc., that desire doesn’t seem as prominent. It could also be because I have been including more video with clips of me in them, perhaps helping blur the lines between physically space and digital space.


Although my communication with present students is either face-to-face, on a screen due to IDL or online via Blackboard, my communication with my colleagues at the main campus in LaCrosse includes social media. Because my position requires me to travel to various regional learning centers or work from home, my communication with my colleagues does extend outside formal settings. We do communicate via email, blogs, Sharepoint, Skype, Facebook, Instagram etc., and I do move “across textual and social resources during one work session” (Pigg, 2014, pg. 75). Since we have been doing this, I do feel more included since I am only physically with my department two times a year.


Posted on October 1, 2017, in Social Media, Teaching, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. miriamannelevy

    You bring up great points about collaboration. I feel like collaboration needs to happen kind of naturally. Allowing students to guide a conversation rather than pushing specific directions allows for real collaboration in this sense.

    This reminds me of a paper I read this summer about distributed work environments and software engineering teams. We often strive for quality of products by relying on the natural development of “Joint Idea Generation.” This is basically a level of collaboration where software engineers and customers are building a product and solving problems at the same time. Obviously creating a distributed environment makes this much more difficult and in the research it appears to take much more time to get to a level where the participants are comfortable challenging each other or suggesting improvements to the overall product. What’s great is that they utilize what is called a prototype to stimulate a level of proximity, in addition to different web tools. A prototype is basically a version of a product that is not ready to be released but is testable, giving the customer something to give feedback while the whole product is being developed. The prototype allows all parties to work together at the same time rather than creating a linear workflow of communication and learning. I’m not sure how this level of collaboration could be applied to education, but maybe more interaction with other students to build something collaboratively could be a step in the right direction.

    Link to paper:

  2. Very interesting Miriam! Thank you for sharing!

  3. It is very interesting that you’ve noticed students are more motivated to share their social media contacts on Day 1 while others in your life are not. As an undergrad student 10 years ago I I did give our contact information but not on day one. Even today I wouldn’t do that.

    • Same! I keep joking with colleagues that “I don’t talk to people” on campus. However, put me online with strangers in the same academic disciplines or certain fan groups and we can become instant friends and collaborators. I think it’s because online there’s an easier vetting process and on campus you’re sometimes forced into meetings and collaborations that don’t go anywhere.

  4. Excellent overview here! I think a major change I’ve seen across older/non-traditional college age groups when it comes to social media is access to a mobile phone. These weren’t as common in 2007, but now sometimes a smartphone is the main “computer” for the household. We’ve actually had to write up polices for technology requirements as a result of some students thinking they could do everything from an ipad/tablet. When we wrote that, though, the Microsoft suite wasn’t available in app form, so maybe someone could do their entire MSTPC via an ipad?!?!

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