Meet Kate Morgan: an educator inspiring her students through social media and finding the good in it for academia. Paper.li publisher since June 2011.
What started as one teacher’s project for her classroom, is quickly turning into a reference for social media across the board in classrooms at Penn State, and peers are beginning to refer to Kate’s work as the “Morgan Methodology”: the campus vernacular for “curating tweets using Paper.li”.
Kate, tell us about your background…
Well, it’s extremely diverse … are you ready?
I was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After high school I joined the United States Air Force and worked in Search and Rescue (awesome job!) before moving to England with my husband, where I coordinated marketing and events for the base.
Three years later we moved back to the US. Since then I worked as a journalist, photographer for the military, webmaster and writer. I have a husband and daughter and together we’ve traveled the world, tried all kinds of new things and had a really great time.
I guess my natural curiosity and skill with new technology has always been an asset – no matter what I was doing.
Q. So where are you now?
I’m Director of University Relations and an adjunct instructor at Penn State University, Lehigh Valley campus. My primary duties are public relations but I also teach a first-year Intercultural Community Building course for all freshmen and an IT course, as well as photography workshops.
I’ve always been eager to integrate useful uses of social media so I was determined to find a solid academic use for twitter. I honestly didn’t see any purpose to twitter until I stumbled upon paper.li and realized that this was exactly what I was looking for.
Q. Can we take a peek into your classroom?
Sure! I love learning, I enjoy technology and I am amazed at the speed of life. I also really enjoy the classroom.
My main goal is to keep things simple and useful. Students have such a fresh perspective and can figure out all kinds of ways to use technology. Those are my favorite discussions and always lead to great projects.
Just recently in class we were discussing cell phone use and how professors feel about students texting in class. Then one student announced that he takes notes on his cell phone! No notebook and pen, no computer, no iPad! I was flabbergasted. He showed them to me. He said he gets yelled at all the time for texting, but he is actually doing work. He can input text quicker than he can write!
Q. Not just texting, but tweeting too?
Yes, and the students’ tweets are published as the Weekly Vibe. We talk about so many things in class, this is like bringing in ’virtual’ newspaper clippings on topics such as substance abuse, technology and education, finances, or the value of a college education.
We have bi-weekly topics and the students have to tweet anything relevant, then be prepared to talk about it in class. They have found some great links. The paper really gets the class talking about what they see ‘out there’ and each student has their favorite source-type (although I encourage them to vary their sources).
What they choose says a lot about learning styles. Students can pull in videos, articles or images, and then they share why that piece was chosen and where they found it. It really makes for some powerful, dimensional conversations.
Their first assignment was to do something personal and I got all kinds of content. One girl posted a child dancing to music from her native country of Guyana. Mostly she wanted to tell everyone that Guyana was not in Africa; the African country is Ghana, not Guyana which is in South America. The class started asking her all about her culture.
Q. And you’re also blogging in class?
My second venture is called Class Matters, and let me tell you, it has been great. The first time my paper published with content from my students I actually cheered!
HDFS 287W is partly a ‘writing’ class, so I wanted to introduce them to the mechanics of blogging so they could learn to write in a different way. I teach them how to use the Penn State blog system and they can write using technology and I don’t have to look at 25 papers every week!
The assignment is to write their blog entries relating to a chapter in the common reading book, Class Matters, which is about the structure of society in the US. Then they publish their post and tweet the link, hashtagging it #cmhdfs4 (a reference to the course name). We pull up the post and everyone can read the comments from one location! Brilliant!
Q. So what does the classroom of the future look like?
Who knows! I know it is exciting and that companies such as paper.li bring great opportunities for ideas to grow. Social media is not going away, and academia needs to harness that power.
My fellow instructors are interested, but some are overwhelmed by the technology. I have a lot of support from Penn State Lehigh Valley and I’m hoping to present my work at some Penn State conferences on teaching with technology as well as at a national conference.
I know there are good uses for social media; great things happen out there and that is the part I search for.