Social media theory and practice: An outline

Carrie Brown-Smith is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Memphis. Last month she posted a first draft of a syllabus for a college course about social media. I took a look at it today, and I suggest you do the same.

Ultimately, this course hopes to foster the meta-skill of applying the core values of journalistic practice to new media forms in productive, creative, and intelligent ways. Flexibility and the ability to experiment and think critically will perhaps be among the most vital abilities of the new era.

That certainly gets Carrie’s syllabus off to a great start!

For a course like this, you’ll probably want to point the students toward something like this list:

20 Essential Social Media Resources You May Have Missed (from Mashable, a great blog the students should be following)

I like Carrie’s description of the students’ blogging assignment as a travelogue through which each student will track or document the social networking sites and new media ventures explored during the course. Using a blog this way does not usually result in a publication that has wide audience appeal — but it’s a very good experience for the individual blogger, just as keeping a journal during a travel experience can be. It helps you reflect on what you have seen and done that day. It helps you remember, later, what you discovered.

I’d be interested in seeing the list of assignments, as well as a few scholarly articles that will be really relevant to this course.

4 Comments on “Social media theory and practice: An outline

  1. I’m teaching a social media course right now — undergraduate — and it’s been an interesting semester. While this course is more hands-on, the principles that Carrie talks about are part of it. It’s a course for pr and advertising students, so we have not just focused on news journalism. It’s been good for the me and the students, though it’s a course that will constantly be revised. I guess I can say that about all journalism courses today.

  2. Thanks Mindy!As soon as I get a chance I hope to flesh out the weekly schedules and reading assignments and such. 🙂

    I should note that I got the idea for calling it a “travelogue” from this Topics in Digital Media course taught at NYU by Mushon Zer-Aviv: As you said, just seemed like the most apt way to put it 🙂

    I will definitely check out the book you recommended.

  3. I think the key to teaching a course like this is to get the students to discover and share the newest stuff out there. It’s hard for one hardworking teacher to stay abreast of all the latest social media sites, tools, etc. — then add to that the time spent exploring the sites and coming up with assignments too.

    So if the students themselves beat the bushes to find examples of social media, and then talk about the good and bad points of those examples, everybody will learn more — I mean, more than having one person (the professor) responsible for choosing all the material for the course.

  4. I am teaching a course this semester called Social Media at Work ( I’m using Briggs’ book as a foundation, but the class is not strictly about journalism, so I supplement with lots of outside materials. See the Outline page. I will teach again in the Fall, and plan to tweak a little. I like the idea of the travelogue use of the blog. My students did a combo of a blog on a specific interest mixed with specific assignment posts they were asked to do based on what we were reading, watching.

    In regard to having students responsible for the content of the course, I think that is also a good idea. In other classes I teach (much smaller enrollment than the Social Media class), each student is responsible for starting one class period with a news item. We share those with other sections of the same class on Twitter with #webpub.

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