The popular Tiger Talkback forum at Fort Hays State University has expanded with the help of the eCitizenship initiative into the online world with a Tiger Talkback presence on Twitter. Tiger Talkback is a cooperation between the American Democracy Project and the Student Government Association.
"The goal of Tiger Talkback is to draw attention to any issues that people are talking about and gives them a forum to express their thoughts," said Dr. Robert Moody, associate professor of advanced education programs. "Twitter allows another form of communication for people to have an avenue to express their thoughts and feelings and also generate additional conversation among students and, potentially, faculty members."
"Tiger Talkback is a way for FHSU students to be heard," said Dr. Cynthia Garrety, Learning Commons coordinator. The Learning Commons assists students with all aspects of technology and learning including software, hardware, equipment, smart study rooms, workshops and tutorials.
"The goal is to post questions that are provocative, that make students want to respond or think about the question or someone's post. It gets them thinking about current events and articles in the news and starts their job of becoming more of a global citizen," she said.
Twitter provides a forum for in-person and online members of the FHSU community and beyond to engage in a dialog about the important issues of the day.
"By understanding the issues of today, students will be able to take a stand and fight for issues that need to be fought for," said Anne Drees, Hays senior and American Democracy Progect student co-coordinator. "Young students are the future of this country and they should be the ones starting to take it upon themselves to deal with these issues."
Tiger Talkback discussions have included child soldiering, the 2012 elections and presidential campaigns, and other issues. These discussions are presented in a nonpartisan light to allow for a wide range of political and personal opinions.
"We are encouraging students to feel confident in how they feel that they will step out of their comfort zone, post something about it and support their opinions," said Garrety.
Each week a new Tiger Talkback question will be posted on Twitter and on a white board located in Memorial Union. Faculty, staff, students and community members can participate by responding to the question and using the #tigertalkback hashtag.
"We are trying to get students to realize the platforms of social media that they see as connecting with their friends can be so much more," said Garrety. "Instead of posting what they had for breakfast or 'I'm walking to the union,' we are trying to get them posting things, responding to things in the news, responding to our questions, following people who they feel are newsworthy in their field or in a subject they're interested in."
A number of professors have started to integrate Twitter and #tigertalkback process into their classes as a way to take learning outside the walls of the classroom.
"Our students are at an age where they are constructing their view of the world, constructing the kind of adults they are going to be," said Garrety. "With Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms, students can be heard all over the globe just by typing in 140 characters."
"This is a great way to use social media in the classroom because it is a safe environment that promotes higher education learning and non-biased ideas," said Drees.
With the rise in technology and social media, schools are starting to see an increasing number of teachers in higher education and secondary education integrate the use of these technologies into the classroom to enhance student learning.
"The world revolves around the Internet now, and we have become very dependent on it," said Moody. "Social media is a free and quick resource to get information out there through newsletters, instructional clips and videos. While Facebook may be blocked at school, it's not at home and doesn't cost the district anything. K-12 teachers could replicate the Tiger Talkback forum in their own classroom. It would be a great tool for higher order thinking."
"One of the exciting things about social media is sometimes something will come across Twitter in a short post and will make you want to learn more," said Garrety. "One of the most powerful things in education is learning that there are other ways to get information other than the news agencies and TV."