A few years ago, I had to cancel a class I was teaching. I was scheduled to be out of town for a conference, and I was not thrilled about missing out on instruction time. So, I thought, "Let's do a Twitter chat instead!"
I had been using Twitter to follow friends and other professionals, but this was the perfect time to try using social media in a professional setting. My students and I had great time, and I even got comments from students who rarely spoke in class.
Since that time, I have expanded my use of Twitter in the classroom and started trying to convince colleagues to follow my lead. I began tweeting about assignments and started following students as they followed me. I also started tweeting about new research and posing questions to students to spark discussion in our next face-to-face class period. I also started occasionally giving prizes (usually FNCE swag) to the first students to reply to my tweets. I love when a student comes to me excited about something he or she read on Twitter and asks to discuss it with the class.
Many educators have approached me with their concerns about setting up an account, Twitter's 140-character limit and having students post inappropriate comments. I'm happy to say that none of these concerns have ever been a problem for me. One of the best outcomes I've seen is how students who present as introverts in class can come alive on social media. They know the content ahead of time, which allows them to prepare comments instead of feeling put on the spot in class. I have found many of the quiet students have a deep understanding of the material, which I was not picking up on in the traditional class setting. Plus, those students who are active in classroom discussions have to learn how to get their point across in just 140 characters.
Using Twitter is also an opportunity for students to connect with other nutrition professionals all over the country. These connections have resulted in volunteer experiences in their home communities. One student even secured a preceptor for her internship with a dietitian she knew from Twitter. I encourage students to follow leading researchers in the field so they can be on the cutting-edge of nutrition information and know who is doing the research. This motivates the students to read the actual study and interact with the researchers to better understand the results.
If you have not tried Twitter yet, I highly encourage you to do so! Educating students and nutrition professionals on the benefits of using social media in order to provide evidenced-based information helps to promote the RDN as the nutrition expert and connects you with professionals you probably never would have met otherwise.