Wired Faculty

Bill SelvigeSo, how many social media sites do you have to maintain to be considered a truly “wired” faculty member?

IMG_20130117_104756 I began to wonder about setting a mythical standard as Kevin Lum  unpacked several more approaches to social media. After Kevin finished his presentation on blogging, he continued the workshop for NTS faculty by providing introductions to hosting webinars, navigating facebook, curating twitter feeds, and learning to find the right format that matches personal inclination and student interest.

There were a number of helpful insights including some key maxims from Kevin for faculty who want to maintain  facebook pages:

  • Time Decay: Facebook posts lose influence over time. You need to discover when your audience is online
  • Interaction: If a user visits your page, likes your posts, and occasionally comments – they’re more likely to see your content
  • Engagement: Posts can gather momentum. The more likes and comments a post receives, the more likely it is to show up in news feeds

To be sure, many faculty members have already gotten into the social media world either through personal blog sites like David Wesley’s blog and the faculty reflections currently surfacing through the NTS faculty blogs 

In the mix of this technology showcase there was a healthy conversation around some of the key issues that often shape social media discussion.

  • How do you navigate the frenetic pace of online social engagement while maintaining measured time for contemplation and careful discernment?
  • IMG_20130117_104702When should we focus on providing substantive insights as opposed to more personal updates?
  • How do we balance institutional standards with professional interests, personal humor, and some of the unexpected consequences of online environments?
  • Recognizing that most graduate faculty spend most of our time laboring over detailed research presentations, how do we adopt and adapt our work to the realm of social media?

Overall, I think we really did engage in a healthy mix of theoretical reflection, moments of light humor, and real desire to find our place in the social media matrix. For many of us the key questions revolve around a basic desire to use these forums appropriately to influence (positively), educate, and even inspire students to engage these venues constructively.  So, even during the “push back” around issues like personality and a desire for a reflective posture, the faculty really responded and explored the key challenge of theological education for a people living in a world of fluid information flow. How do we speak into lives of a generation where social media, regardless of medium, remains ubiquitous?

For me the morning spurred a lot of personal reflection around my online engagement during the academic journey. I guess a background in broadcast journalism didn’t hurt, I always had an interest in technology (I was the student media librarian at NTS in 1989 when we opened our first “computer lab” after former professor Don Whitlock negotiated a gift of a series of Apple IIe computers… complete with daisywheel printers!).

After suffering through PC DOS (the old Wordperfect!) I carried my floppy disks to Trevecca Nazarene University and was carried into the “Pandora” world of Windows. Somehow I finagled open access on the TNU website for a personal website (I didn’t know html so I used Frontpage as a content creator). Through this fledgling effort I posted syllabi, degree guidelines, program policies, and even student work on the now defunct website. I also used Xanga (yes Xanga) not only for personal blogs but also to post student discussion boards (even had a student create an avatar titled “Dean’s Candle” for those online adventures).

Didache cI was even able to launch an online academic journal twelve years ago (Didache: Faithful Teaching) that survived three software changes and four server sites (amazing).

Now I also curate a new site hosted

faithful homes c

by both NTS and SDMI titled faithfulhomes (already mentioned earlier on this blog) that includes several former and current students as co-editors. I just met with Larry Morris and Mike Fetting Monday morning and we are ready to roll out this new site to the general public.

However, not all efforts have worked,over the years there have been number of failed attempts, my daughter would call then EPIC FAIL. with blog sites: Xanga twice, Blogger, etc.

I suspect I would never have made it back to this site if I had not had to curate a blogsite for the Religious Education Association annual conference in 2011. That effort seemed to “click” and now I hope this site continues where others have failed. Facebook? Yep, including a group page dedicated to Discipleship Commons.

disciplecommonscTwitter? Oh YEAH, I now curate  several twitter feeds for the sake of different class and research endeavors. Maybe I have found my “niche” at 140 characters (don’t laugh).  Storify? Yes, LinkedIn? Yes! Clouds? Yep! (Dropbox, Sugarsync, and others). Second Life? Nope. Farmville? Nope, I have enough trouble without “virtual” spending. Pinterest? Not yet. Flicker? Please! (you see how bad my pictures are).

Reddit? Not yet. Foursquare? Nope, afraid I might get lost. Video gaming? Hey, when your friend is Mark Hayse, why even try to  compete!

So, would I classify as a “wired professor?” Maybe, though I doubt I come close to the gold standard.

Actually today reminded me that most of these efforts were forged gradually over time. Moments of intense development, sure, but for good reason. Other times just “tweaking” existing material, yes, just like tonight.

Still, I wonder if some day people will explore our efforts across the internet like an archaeologist uncovering an ancient near east city. How many “layers” of html code will be uncovered to track the efforts, failures, revivals, and experiments of faculty? Instead of looking over old school yearbooks, will there be a “tablet” version of “this is your virtual life” social media? Instead of a Festschrift, will we get a channel on Youtube? Welcome to the wired world of academia.

About Dean G. Blevins

Dr. Dean G. Blevins currently serves as Professor of Practical Theology and Christian Discipleship at Nazarene Theological Seminary. An ordained elder, Dean has ministered in diverse settings and currently also serves at the USA Regional Education Coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene. A prolific author, Dr. Blevins recently co-wrote the textbook Discovering Discipleship and edits Didache: Faithful Teaching, a journal for Wesleyan Education.
This entry was posted in Culture, Higher Education, Pedagogy, Social Media, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Wired Faculty

  1. Jeremy says:

    I wonder if being “wired” is not measured by how much social media we actually use, but our knowledge and articulation of media technologies. Are we able to intelligently discuss social media and other technologies in a way that someone will acknowledge that we understand that world and culture? Even if we don’t use all the media that is available to us (and really, how could we?), but are at least able to have intelligent and coherent conversations around the use of such media, and could probably even navigate our way around fairly easily if we would choose to use it, I have to think that is partly what constitutes being “wired.” I consider myself a “wired” person, but in no way use all available social media or even grasp all technological concepts, but love learning and discussing those things.

    I would say, “Yes Dr. Blevins, you’re wired.” At least according to the books on your shelves that motivate me to read more when I can find the time.

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