Monday, September 17, 2012

The Sorbonne and Social Media

What does the Sorbonne have to do with social media? 

Having had the privilege of spending a few days in Paris this summer, I made a point of heading to the Latin Quarter to walk down the hallowed halls of one of the world’s oldest and arguably most prestigious educational institutions.  Yet, arriving in early August, we found the Sorbonne closed.  And I mean really closed.  Like haul up the drawbridge, lock the gate, nobody’s home, closed.  I couldn’t even get a sweatshirt!  Closed!  And while I admired the beauty of the architecture and its commanding presence on rue Victor Cousin, I reflected on the locked gate.  

Might this be a metaphor for ‘old school’ education.  Traditional learning.  And could I possibly be feeling the rejection and disappointment that comes with this lack of access?  Without overdramatizing (I mean the French professors have a right to their August holidays, afterall), it was an image that I juxtaposed with the affordances of today’s technology, where the boundaries of both time and space have evaporated. 

Embarking on a new semester with Humber College's Bachelor of PR students, I am pleased to report that our student interaction didn’t stop over the summer.  With a team of students across the country, through email, wikis and Facebook we created an orientation event for new students that incorporated toilet paper, chocolate bar medals (Twix is gold) and Twitter.  Planning the event was possible because we didn’t have to worry about getting together at the same time in the same place.  And once we were together, we engaged our broader community in the fun through tweets and photos.

I realized that, as a social media professor in a PR program, I must continue to challenge myself to find ways to connect with students beyond our classrooms.  Afterall, learning doesn’t stop when the campus doors are shut and the lights are off.