Professor stresses benefits of social media in the classroom

After 13 years of involvement in the College of Education at the University, Evangeline “Vanna” Pianfetti has learned many ways in which to interact with students.

Her most recent focus is on social media and how to incorporate it within classrooms at all grade levels. Pianfetti looks at social media as networking tools that can help educators communicate with students beyond the classroom.

Recently, more teachers have been using Facebook groups as part of their curriculum to further connect with students and the concerns they might have, Pianfetti said. They also provide a forum where students can communicate with each other and gain information related to the course.

“People will seek out more information on topics of interest to them and the Facebook groups give them the opportunity to share what they find … things they have done, things they have tried, things that are going on in their research,” she said.

Johnell Bentz, professor of special education, said he has known Pianfetti since she was a graduate student here at the University.

“(Pianfetti) is definitely a leader in terms of looking at educational technology and (determining) how we can use that in both teaching and research,” Bentz said. “She’s on the cutting edge of using what’s new and applying that back to the College of Education.”

Pianfetti has inspired other educators to get involved with social media through the Movable Feast, a statewide summer institute that helps teachers, administrators and students understand how technology can be used meaningfully in whatever context they are working in. The program helps teachers learn how to incorporate social media into their course plans.

Samantha Mann, senior in Education, said she has definitely seen an increase in digital technology and social media in her classes.

“Even in Vanna’s class we used blog post as a form of reflecting on the things we have learned in the class,” Mann said.

After taking one of Pianfetti’s courses sophomore year about how to integrate technology in the classroom, Mann said that now in her own classroom she encourages her students to explore these technologies.