Social Media Tips and Tricks

SoMe [That’s Social Media, folks!] Tips and Tricks

Tanya Halliday (@NutritionNerd) and Courtney Vengrin (@ProjectHalfDone) Virginia Tech

This blog is posted in conjunction with our poster at the NACTA conference.

ProjectsHalfDone | SoMe Tips and Tricks

Tanya and I are in the CALS GTS program together and have a mutual love for teaching excellence, (me in Ag Ed, her in Nutrition), social media (need to track us down? Check our Twitter feed, blogs and email, info linked at the bottom), lifting weights, and coffee!

So without further ado, here are some of our favorite Social Media tips!

  • Check the #!
    • Ok guys. I’m (Courtney) going to own up to this one. I was posting a picture to Instagram of my awesome tomatoes that I grew in my container garden. I was super proud of them and naturally I wanted to add some #’s and share the gardening love! I used #’s like #virginiagardens #gardening #containergarden and…. #growyourown. FYI…one of those is not for vegetables…I’ll just leave it at that. But the point is, check the hashtag. If you’re going to engage with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media that uses a tagging system make sure your tag is representative of what you intend it to be. You will probably be fine with hashtags you generate for your specific course like #ENG2040 for an English class, but still it would be a good idea to check first! It’s possible another tech-savvy educator is already out there and tweeting away!
  • Write SoMe objectives using Blooms Taxonomy.
    • Want to assess understanding, while also having students work on being concise? Have them summarize a journal article in a 140-character tweet. It’s certainly not an easy task to do!
    • Need a refresher or Bloom’s Taxonomy Action verb cheat sheet? Several exist, but to help you get started, here is a link to one:
    • For some really amazing tips, check out Techbytes who makes AMAZING graphics like the one seen here

TechBytes | Projectshalfdone

  • Don’t assume your students are familiar with the SoMe platform(s) you are asking them to use. Take the time to walk them through setting up an account, learning the lingo, and posting to the platform before the official “grading” period begins.
  • Post regularly
    • Before taking your social media in to the classroom you need to be able to commit to engaging with social media on a regular basis. Lead by example for your students. If you’re having trouble remembering to post, set a reminder in your calendar or write it in your planner. Set a goal for how often you should post.
    • Next, consider how often you expect students to post. Is it twice a semester, twice a unit, or twice a week? Set realistic expectations based on how influential you expect social media to be in your course.
  • Post relevant articles or popular press
    • If you’re not sure what to post, find an article or news release that relates to your course. Comment on an article you read recently. Find a blogger who discusses your topic and follow them. They certainly won’t mind you promoting their blog to your class!

Twitter Tips | ProjectsHalfDone

  • Be an example for your students
    • In all that you do on social media, remember that you are an example for your students. You are also putting yourself in public, so consider your social media account to be an extension of your professional presence online. Show your students what it looks like to be a professional. You can even incorporate appropriate social media behavior in to class discussion, highlighting appropriate posts and emphasizing how many potential employers WILL look at your online presence and make a judgment accordingly.
    • To help keep the posts and conversations professional, while also respecting your students’ privacy, we feel it is best to develop a social media policy up front. Create this document with your students. If your school has a code of conduct, use that as a starting point!
    • Finally, we will all make mistakes as we interact on Social Media platforms. Your students may tweet inappropriately. You may publish an inaccurate blog post. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes keep you – and your students – out of the conversation. Acknowledge these errors, lapses in judgement, etc; learn from them; and move on!
  • Network with other professionals
    • Follow other people in your field! Follow The Chronicle and other academic accounts. Share their posts to your account! You can make some really amazing connections just by spending a few minutes a day on social media
    • Tanya here: I have to admit, I was very anti-social media for quite a while. At one point I even deleted my personal FaceBook page because I just didn’t see the relevance. However, after getting annoyed with all of the misinformation on-line related to nutrition and exercise, I decided to start my own blog. From there, I began writing a nutrition column for a popular running blog and was quickly “encouraged” to GET ON TWITTER! So, I did. Reluctantly. However, this has been one of the best decisions I have made for my professional life. I have made connections with other dietitians, graduate students, and even some of the TOP researchers in my field simply by putting myself out there on social media. In 2012, my on-line presence resulted in an invitation to the Gatorade Sports Science (GSSI) Satellite Lab in Bradenton, FL as part of their Sports Fuel Expert Summit. Not a bad way to spend a few days! [Link to that post here:]
  • Promote your own work
    • What else is social media other than self-promotion? Don’t be shy! Promote your blog. Tell people that you’re excited about your conference presentation. Let everyone know your article is going to be published in the Journal of Awesome Educators!
  • Maintain an online presence – Control what is out there
    • The biggest thing for you as a growing professional and for your students is to control what is out there!
    • Your on-line presence is going to build itself anyway. Deliberate and purposeful engagement on SoMe platforms lets YOU drive it. I remember as an undergrad when FaceBook first came out, administrators, faculty, coaches, all told us “Make sure nothing bad comes up when your name is “Googled”. I don’t think that’s enough anymore. Now, I think it is imperative that you be easily located on on-line searches, and are known as having a positive and professional presence!
    • I’ll be doing a post soon about Google-ability. Stay tuned for more on this!
  • Should social media use be mandatory in your course?
    • Great question – and one you can probably answer better than us! Know that the likelihood of having students engage as much as you would like if it is NOT mandatory is slim. You’ll perhaps have some adopters, but don’t expect your students to automatically create a dynamic online community without incentive (e.g.- a grade) from you. That being said, think about the time you can devote to reviewing the SoMe contributions. If it is an integral portion of your class, then go ahead and devote the time to it and make it mandatory. If you’re just dabbling, or it’s ‘just for fun’, then spend less time with it and make it an option. With your purpose in mind, along with the realities of the associated time cost, you can then think about organization, tracking, and assessment
  • Organizing, Tracking, and Assessing SoMe in your course
    • Organization: Consider how you will organize your requirements for students, how the social media will be organized in the context of your course, and how you will utilize all of the data generated through these communications!
    • Tracking: If you’re utilizing a platform with hashtags (Instagram or Twitter) several options exist for tracking that hashtag. (Here’s one example). If you’re having students blog, you may not have time to read all of their blog posts every week. This could be a chance to grade based on the bigger picture. Each week, browse the comments – if you see a student post that they are confused about another student’s post, go in and see what that student wrote about. Offer guidance as needed. If a student was particularly engaged in class, check out their blog post. Chances are they wrote something phenomenal, and you can comment as such – and share as an example with the rest of the class. Using Pinterest? This one may be better assessed at distinct time points throughout the semester.
    • Assessment: Just like you have criteria –and perhaps a rubric – for other assignments in your course, create one that is specific to your purpose and platform of choosing so you can more objectively assess student’s use.

Want to get in touch with us? Here’s the info one last time:

  •  Tanya Halliday

Happy tweeting!!


Houston, We Have A Committee


I’m super excited to have finally nailed this committee thing down. I feel like I can make real progress now and everyone involved seems excited about my research. I can’t thank each of them enough, and although probably only one of them will read this…I really am so incredibly grateful to have them helping me with this process. It’s a huge time commitment to agree to serve on a student’s committee and I recognize that and really value both their input and their time.

As far as my research goes, I plan to focus on the evaluation competencies of extension agents. Evaluation is something that another professor opened my eyes to. I fell in love with it and am so happy I took her class. She was a huge part in helping decide my dissertation topic. Although she is not on my committee I owe so much to her as well.

There are so many people I would put on my committee just because they have been so influential in my graduate studies, but sadly our research interests don’t align. They can be on my cheering committee, perhaps. At least in my mind they are. I feel so lucky to be at this University with such amazing professors. They all have helped get me to this point.

Well, I’m going to take my super-excited-newly-formed-committee-energy and go read some things and move forward!!

The Post That Almost Was

Let’s talk about this wild west world of the world wide web…shall we?

I almost made a different post on here, but I stopped myself and decided to discuss what I almost did… Here is a shortened version of the post that almost was:

I have a class project to do and I need responses…who wants to help? Your reward in this is feeling awesome for helping a graduate student out. Isn’t that what everyone wants?!?!!? Best reward EVER!!!

Ok, a little background…I’m taking a course on instrument development (how to make a survey instrument for my dissertation that my committee won’t totally hate). For this course we had to make up an instrument to test a construct. I have made the instrument. Now we need to pilot test it on a minimum of 35 people. These people don’t actually have to be my target population, or know a thing about what I’m trying to survey. I just need people to click bubbles.

Below you will find a link to my survey of Evaluation Perceptions of Agricultural Extension Agents. If you are unsure of what this position is, I will try to briefly describe it below:
[Description was here]

Here is the survey link: [LINK DELETED]

Again, this isn’t a real research project. This is JUST for a class. No identifying data will be asked for or recorded. You do NOT need to be in this profession or be aware of what this profession even IS to take this survey. It’s only 15 bubble clicks long. So won’t you please help out a poor starving graduate student???

So basically I made an instrument that is similar but not directly related to my dissertation research goals. Then I thought to myself…If I put this out there, in cyberspace, what rights do I have to this instrument??? Will someone steal it and call it their own? Will this hurt my research even though I will make a much different and much more in-depth instrument? Is this a bad idea? Am I overreacting since this is just a class assignment??

My department isn’t really competitive…we more or less assist each other as opposed to some departments where you keep everything to yourself for fear of others stealing your ideas. But am I being too open?? I’m not sure. I did send my instrument out through our department email list, but that’s one thing. I know those people. But what about on the blogosphere? How do you collaborate and generate ideas with strangers if you are concerned that they will steal your intellectual property? Where is the line? How do we move forward in such a connected environment but still maintain integrity and trust?

How do you stay protected?

You’re Doing It Wrong

Or you’re at least not doing it the way my opinionated graduate student self thinks you should be doing it.

I’m talking about my professors. Or guest speakers. Or really anyone with whom I have an interaction at this point. I’m usually judging them. Between being trained to teach, trained to research, and trained to basically observe…the end result is that basically all I can do is judge. I’m sorry. I can’t stop it. It goes on in my head almost constantly. (To be honest, we all judge things, all day. Her outfit, his car, you do it. You know you do. I’m just saying…)

It’s the absolute worst in class though. Mainly because I’m a former educator, am working on research in education, am working on a PhD in education and am taking…hey…this GEDI class thing…I can’t shut the judgy brain off!! I evaluate my professors for the wait time they give after posing a question to the class. I consider how many higher level questions they ask and how much they lecture. Even if I’m not in their class anymore, I find myself reading or learning about a teaching strategy and thinking “Oh yeah, Dr. X did that technique!!” or “Ohhh Dr. Y was SO bad at that!”. It’s kind of awful. I don’t want to be judgy.  I don’t mean to be, but it’s in my head. I’m constantly thinking about your teaching if you’re teaching me. So if you’re one of my teachers and you’re reading this, sorry for my judgement of you. Sometimes it’s good though!! Sometimes I get ideas on how to do things. But sometimes…I’m fairly snarky. Especially if you commit some of the “cardinal sins” of teaching that I have devised in my head.

Let’s name a few:

  1. Thou shalt not ask a question only to almost instantly answer it yourself.
  2. Thou shalt not talk in a monotone for 3 hours.
  3. Thou shalt not wander off on a tangent for more than 3 minutes. Maybe 5 if it’s funny.
  4. Thou shalt not lecture for the entire 3 hour class.
  5. Thou shalt not hold a clear and evident disdain for all technology, including scholar, blackboard, etc.

Why am I so judgy?? It’s really not the most attractive of my qualities and thankfully I usually keep most of my judgements to myself, because really…I’m not that great of an instructor yet. Might not ever be, who knows. But it’s in my head. All my professors and papers put it there!!

It’s stuck now.

Swirling around like a vortex of judgy doom, just waiting to leap on the next person to stand in front of a room and open their mouth….

The Closer: Reflecting on Today’s Teaching

So we’ve all at least heard of that show The Closer? Yes? Ok good. I…need to channel her while teaching. I? Am horrid at closing lessons. I think that this stems partly from teaching high school. As a high school teacher I had a very set amount of time to get things done. I had it planned to a T, and I repeated myself 5 times a day, so by the last class of the day, I was AWESOME. And by the third year, practicing the same lesson roughly 15 times, I was epic. (Ok, I was probably an average teacher, but let me just have a happy moment, ok??)

But teaching college is a whole new animal. I’m not quite as confident, and the timing is much more flexible so it’s thrown me. With the courses I’m teaching, I have 7-10 students. I’m used to classes of 27, screaming, bubbling, hormonal, can’t sit still, high schoolers. TEN STUDENTS?!?!? *enter cricket chirping noises*

Yeah. So I need to work on planning for the time I have, the students I have, and most of all CLOSING my lessons. Summing things up, having an ending, getting to a point, having a take-home. SOMETHING. *channel Kyra Sedgwick, channel Kyra Sedgwick, channel Kyra Sedgwick*

Ok, I do SOMETHING, but….I never feel it’s GOOD. And it’s not just me. I’ve had peers evaluate me and it’s not just in my head (sometimes it’s good to do an external check, you never know what’s REAL, right qualitative people??), I do need to work on closure.

Today’s topic was Bloom’s Taxonomy and Learning Theories. I planned. I made a lesson plan (WHAT? Lesson plans for a college classroom? NO WAY!), I made a powerpoint to guide me and some fun games using Blooms. I read my readings (Oh, by the way, this is the class I TA with for my advisor. So I only teach when she’s gone or if I ask to lead the class, so the materials are mostly pre-determined but I do have the freedom to add in my own stuff.) and made some notes on them to help facilitate discussion if needed.

Overall, it went as planned. We started off choosing a partner to work with. I informed them that for a minute I was going to treat them like freshmen. I had them all (All 5 of them, WHOO) stand up and raise their right hand. They had to walk around the room and find someone with their hand up. When they had found a partner they put their hands down. Then I had them raise their left hand, separate from their current partner and find a new one. This works well if you have a class where you want to have students get in pairs or groups with different people each time. Once you do the “Right then Left” version, the next time you can have them just do “Right hand”. That way they don’t know how many times they will be switching partners and they can’t strategize to be with the ever-popular “smart kid” or their “BFF” in the class.

Once partnered, I did a game with post-it notes and Bloom’s Taxonomy and although it went well for the first 5-10 minutes, once I was going over all the verbs (I only did around 30) I realized it was too tedious. Next time I will just go over a few from each category and then ask if there were ones they were really unsure on. That would be better.

That activity took a lot longer than planned. It ate up my time. After that we did have time to do my Bloom’s Mad Libs using the verbs, and then construct some objectives utilizing Bloom’s. Aaaaand then I was out of time. Mostly. Like 10 minutes left. I needed more like 30.

So I briefly touched on Learning Theories, asked about their observations and then had to send them on their way. I did manage to tie Bloom’s into their observations and explain the importance and future use of Learning Theories in things like their Teaching Philosophy but that was about it. It wasn’t what I had planned. My closure was only mediocre because I was rushing. But…I will say that I’d rather over-plan than under-plan any day of the week.

So for next time, less on the verbs, more on moving along. I’m glad I have time to practice teaching before being thrown into it as faculty!!! And as always….CLOSURE, CLOSURE, CLOSURE!!!

A Little Bit of Background

Well, let’s take this new blog for a test-drive, shall we?

If you’ve looked over the “About” page, then you probably know some of this, so sorry for the repetition, but otherwise, here’s a little explanation of the blog and myself.

The title of this blog, Projects half Done (PhD….get it???) is my take on PhD life. Everything. Is always. Half done. Then once those things are done-done, there’s MORE to do. It’s like they want to keep us here…working…FOREVER. Also…from my observations, that’s what having a job in academia is like as well. You’ve got class and your research and your meetings and your committees and your family and it goes on and on and on and…really isn’t that every job? Or life really? I mean who DOESN’T have some half done projects, right now, and this very second? Please raise your hand. I want to come smack you. You are clearly underachieving. Get off your hindquarters. Do more things. DO ALL THE THINGS. (Ok maybe not all, but at least get something going.) So my thought is that I have projects. I always will. So let’s chat about them.

This blog is a result of a class assignment that for once wasn’t busy-work. Shocking, right? I’ve been assigned to blog for class several times. And I do. And then approximately 16 weeks after starting the blog, I delete it. Or abandon it. And during those 16 weeks I typically loathe it. Often I curse at it. Why?? Because it’s no different than writing a paper. I’m assigned a topic, sometimes even a specific format or questions to answer, often mirroring the forum posts or paper I had to ALSO write that week…and then I have to spit out something coherent that no one other than my classmates will read (and usually because they are forced to as well). Did it make an impact on me? If you consider general weekly annoyance an impact, then yes. Do I remember anything I blogged about? In general, no. Did it help me learn the material any better? No. I don’t care how many research studies that you have saying it helps me learn, I can assure you that regurgitating the same thing I posted in the forum in a different format did not help me learn. I can’t tell you what I posted in the forum and I can’t tell you what I blogged. I. Didn’t. Care. It wasn’t RELEVANT to me.

But wait…slow down…if I HATE blogging for class so much, why am I sitting here, a day BEFORE I actually have to start blogging for class (supposedly we are going to blog IN class…whaaattt??) writing this post?

Because my professor made me care. She did. She wins. First day of class and she just won. I wave my white flag. She gave us some readings:

And some videos to watch:

Seth Godin and Tom Peters on blogging

Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley

And then she won. I get it. Apparently this whole blogging deal can ACTUALLY help me publish some things, write a dissertation, learn even more things, network with people who like what I like, AND NOT SUCK!!!

So this blog will be about what we are doing in class, but I’m also going to try and tie it in to what I LOVE and want to research, which is program planning and evaluation. I. Heart. Eval. So much. Like I’m dying a little that I can’t go to the AEA conference in October because of the rest of my October schedule being too insane.

Also, I have another blog that is about my hobbies and non-academic life. Feel free to wander over there as well.

As far as about me, I’m in the second year of my PhD in Agricultural and Extension Education (Ag Ed) at a major land grant institution. If you don’t know what a land grant is, then stay tuned because I’ll be posting a video on that shortly! I received my bachelors in Biology from a small university and then went on to get my masters in Ag Ed from the same institution that I am at now. After receiving my masters I then taught high school science (Biology and Earth Science) for 3 years. The state standardized tests made me want to do bad, bad, things to the department of education so I wandered back to academia where standardized testing is sometimes scoffed at. (These. Are. My. People.) I’m quite happy here. I think I shall stay.

My goal is to become a professor at one of three land grant institutions in my dream jar. I won’t name names, but if you happen to be from one of them and I know it, I will attempt to make you my new BFF.

Aside from the academics I also sometimes go outside and see sunshine and even other people! I am the proud mom of an anti-snuggly kitty cat and a super-snuggly slobbery bulldog mix. I enjoy endurance sports such as marathons and triathlons. I also knit and spin my own yarn. And then I do have a fiance who I neglect on a regular basis due to this whole PhD thing. Thankfully he gets it because he has his…so we make it work. I’m also passionate about food and agriculture. I believe we need safer, more sustainable food and that everyone, EVERYONE should know how to grow and cook at least 3 things. And last tidbit about myself: I’m an uber nerd. I love Dr. Who, Star Wars, Harry Potter and I’m fairly sure that the writers of Big Bang Theory get their quotes and humor from me. My fiance is Sheldon. I swear on my evaluation textbook. They are the same person.

Alright, enough blogging. I’ll go read now. (LOOK, Dr. AdvisorPerson, I WROTE SOMETHING THIS SEMESTER!!! Are you not shocked?!?! I WROTE instead of READING for once. Bahahahaha. I swear, I’m working on Chapter 2. I am. I PROMISE. Outline to you by Friday. Really. I mean it.)