Last fall, faculty embraced the use of social media for Lead and Inspire 1: Professional Nursing Practice — a first-semester course where nursing students are introduced to the history of nursing, standards and scope of practice, ethics, technology, communication and leadership. The idea of using social media for course work came up when new course facilitator Jane M. Carrington, PhD, RN, FAAN, the college’s Dorothy M. Smith Endowed Chair and co-director of the Florida Blue Center for Health Care Quality, and co-faculty members Shavondra Huggins, DNP, CNS, WHNP-BC, FNP-C, APRN, CNE, clinical assistant professor, and Tamara Macieira, PhD, RN, assistant professor, taught the course in the fall.
At first, the thought of social media sounded risky, but Carrington — who came to UF from the University of Arizona last January — shared her experience using this platform in past courses. Together, faculty discussed the advantages and concerns. In the end, they all agreed that it was worth a try.
“Twitter, unlike other social media platforms, lets you follow someone and see their tweets, even if they don’t follow you back,” Carrington explained. “Students could follow nurse leaders and see their tweets addressing nursing education, science, scholarship and policy. Some students were actually followed back by the nurse leaders, and they were pretty excited about that.”
Carrington said, if used correctly, social media cannot only enhance the learning experience of students, but it becomes a way for faculty and students to fully engage on a more personal level, creating an environment of openness and excitement to learn and grow. Especially as a majority of present-day students fall under the “Generation Z” category; social media is where they feel most at home.
“Before teaching this course, I never really considered incorporating social media into the curriculum,” Macieira said. “I was reluctant at first because I was not sure how we would be able to maintain the professionalism and integrity of assignments when posted on a platform that anyone has access to. However, I was positively surprised by how well the students responded to posting their answers to the weekly assignments. I enjoyed having social media in our curriculum, and it has positively impacted my approach to teaching and my vision of what ‘traditional’ assignments should look like.”
Recent research highlights the important role social media plays in how students are learning today. For example, Terri L. Schmitt, Susan S. Sims-Giddens and Richard G. Booth wrote in the 2012 article “Social Media Use in Nursing Education” published in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, social media is a platform that can assist nursing faculty in helping students to gain a greater understanding of and/or skills in professional communication, health policy, patient privacy and ethics, and writing competencies.
Huggins said she felt like she had to become a student again herself, in order to fully take advantage of using social media in her class.
“I must admit I did not have a Twitter account before teaching this course,” Huggins said. “Once it was agreed to incorporate Twitter into the curriculum, I began to reach out to my teenage daughters, my niece and other Twitter savvy friends for crash-course training sessions. Following that introduction, I was eager to incorporate Twitter supporting the use of technology as a way of teaching and learning. I enjoyed the approach because I was able to learn with the students.”
Morgan Kwok took Lead and Inspire 1 in the fall. As a junior in the BSN program, she expected to gain basic insight into the profession of nursing and how to be an effective leader.
“The class exceeded my expectations as we dove deeper into past and current issues in nursing and not purely just the ‘need to know,’” Kwok said. “Incorporating social media into the curriculum made the course feel current and engaging. I was actually not very familiar with Twitter when I started this class and had to learn how to use it by completing the assignments.”
Twitter limits the number of characters per post to 280. At first, this concerned both faculty and students, but, ultimately, many of them enjoyed finding ways to say exactly what they needed, in the limited amount of characters.
“I found the Twitter assignments to be thought-provoking and actually a bit challenging,” Kwok said. “Limiting responses to 280 characters, in my opinion, was an effective way to encourage students to consider their words very carefully and answer the prompts in concise but clear statements.”