Political science faculty find value in social media

Fri, 2013-01-11 09:32 -- univcomm
Presidential Debate TweetChat
January 11, 2013

The election season is always an important time for political science majors, with opportunities for campaign internships and the chance to analyze current events and televised debates. The recent United States presidential election came at a time when social media seem to be everywhere — Facebook, Twitter, and blogs are being utilized by millions of people, giving anyone with Internet access a public platform to share their opinions. The Department of History and Political Science at Anderson University decided to take advantage of these online media to help students share their opinions in unique and meaningful ways.

“We are consciously trying to help students develop their public brand. Having a venue for them to post their writing is a way for them to be out there in the world and be more attractive to employers as a result,” said Dr. Michael Frank, associate professor of political science. This venue came in the form of a blog, where both Frank and Dr. Daniel Allen, assistant professor of political science, act as moderators. They wrote posts throughout the election season and also featured writings by a few political science majors.

The professors also created live TweetChats using the hashtag #PrezDebateAU during the presidential debates, which soon evolved into more than they could have imagined. “It started off smaller, with probably just people from our classes, but by the end we had alumni, students on campus outside the major, and even students from other campuses participating in the Twitter chats,” said Frank. “I really enjoyed seeing our students use their analytical skills to understand the debates, as opposed to just rooting for their team.”

[Illustration: Political science students, alumni, and faculty participated in a TweetChat during a presidential debate last fall.]

The TweetChats were successful not just in numbers, but in the teaching moments that took place for the students who followed the conversation. “The professors’ participation allowed for students to freely ask questions about topics which were discussed during the debate, or any responses given by the candidates that may have been unclear,” said Blake Hall, a junior political science major. “It impacted what I was able to take away from the debate by comparing my particular views on certain topics to those of my peers.”

Although the election season is over, the professors still maintain the blog, and there will be more student participation and writing. “My number one goal is to share student research and to see the students write about their research experiences,” said Allen. “I’d like to hear more of their words. ... As a professor, my job is to see that critical thinking is taking place and that evidence is being analyzed. My goal is not to indoctrinate, but instead to care very deeply about how someone reaches their conclusions.”

— Marissa Phillips is a senior from Brookville, Ohio, majoring in communication arts. Phillips is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.