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MU professor will experiment using social media in his classroom

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 | 6:03 p.m. CDT; updated 12:13 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 6, 2009

COLUMBIA — Larry Brown, 60, an MU human geography professor, began using social media as a way to pursue his second career of storytelling. Brown, a former pastor, set up a Web site with a profile that includes details of his storytelling achievements and a blog.

Soon, he was involved in a Ning network for professional storytellers, trading posts with others. The network led him to Facebook, where he found more storytelling groups, as well as students in his classes.

Now, Brown is considering bringing social networking into his human geography classes.

“I have not yet tried (social media) with my classes," he said. "I’ll start this year, experimenting with communities on Facebook.”

"Networking gives me the opportunity to be in dialogue on certain issues." Brown said. “It’s put me in contact with very like-minded people.” 

So far, Facebook has not impressed Brown, although he recognizes it as a popular method of social media for students.   

"What I'm getting from Facebook is tons of useless information," Brown said, noting a friend's Facebook online status listed that he was at the gym.

Brown said he’s struggled to get students to interact with Blackboard, an academically-geared online grading and messaging site for students.

“I have to give points for, or trick students into, using Blackboard,” he said. “Because Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are more popular, would they be better?”

Brown said he’s trying to keep up with the times and keep students interactive, but he hasn’t found social media helpful yet. He says social media would have to do more than start conversation to be useful.  

"If I could do that with students, great, but I'm an old guy," he said. "I want that to happen when we're sitting in a room together. There's something about a discussion with a roomful of people."


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