"If you could have any superpower, what would it be?"
Philosophy professor, Dr. Stephen Crowley - or Crowley as his friends call him - posed this question to me one day at my favorite coffee shop in town, Papa Joe's. As is typical of the regulars there, we were shooting the breeze about topics that at the time were just fun banter, but which would later be much more important in hindsight.
And I admit it. I'm a superhero geek girl, so I embraced the question with glee. The thought of developing some cool and unique super powers of my own intoxicates me to no end. Especially with the parameters that Crowley put down: My list of power powers can't be powers like flying or super human strength or anything like that.
So I told him, "I want my unique super power to be enormous intelligence. You know, like Oracle in the Batman/ DC Universe. Or even like Batman himself."
I am bringing all of this up, because this semester, I am in EdTech 543 at Boise State. It's a social media for educators class. About this time, you may actually be wondering what using social media in the classroom has to do with super powers and Batman.
Remember that part of the story where I said that the conversation between Crowley and me would take on greater importance than it had at the time? That time is now. In the Information Age, smarts and instincts have become super powers in their own right. And social media has become both a source of information and knowledge as well as a source of connection.
So here I am…
1. What I Think About Setting Up Social Networks for Class
Our first class assignment required us to join a slew of social networks for the course. I embraced this. I didn't actually have to set them up - I already have accounts on all of them - but from a symbolic standpoint, I am all for it.
While most of my pals in class are taking the class to learn how to use social media in the classroom, I'm taking it for a different reason. I am a writer by profession and designer, and much of my fiction work deals with strong female characters, the proliferation of technology - including social media, and spiritual development.
2. Social Media and My Professional Development as a Writer
In the pages of my books, social media plays a huge part in story development and plot twists. In my real life, social media affords me introductions to people who may share my thematic passions or even become my future readers.
Writing books like these requires a great deal of research and a working knowledge of current and future trends in order to weave together a good story. Learning how to really use social media as an information source counts as a vital step in the process.
According to DigiMind, businesses use social media like Facebook or Twitter to predict what their customers want and what those same customers will do next.
And the pressure is on. An article on Sprout Social suggests that a full 70% of Twitter users expect brands to respond, and of those, 53% expect a response within an hour. In other words, they want real-time engagement. Learning to keep up on social media is, therefore, a priority for the online business, including for writers.
But writers also use social media to find and connect with new readers. I do have a Facebook author page and I have used social media for professional purposes, but not as fully as I could.
One of my personal heroes in this realm is a friend of mine, Rachel Thompson, who has at this writing 161,000 followers on Twitter as of this writing. No. That's not a typo. I did, indeed, write
And that's just on her personal account. That doesn't include other Twitter handles that she has like Bad Redhead Media (75K and counting)
Or her Book Marketing Chat with 2200 followers. (It's a new handle, only a couple of months old at this writing. In no time, she'll have 161K on that, too, no doubt.)
I bring all of this up, because Rachel has also done something that I want to do: Made herself at least well-known as an author. She suffered a bit of a setback when her publisher went out of business. That said, with that kind of social media clout, it wasn't long before an agent snatched her up. While her books aren't in the number one spot in her chosen categories on Amazon, again, no doubt, it'll only be a matter of time before they are again.
I'd like to learn to do what she does to get those results.
3. Using Social Media in the Classroom or as the Classroom? Does Skype count as social media? At least one blogger, Tom Foremski, thinks so. The users' ability to share files, set moods, set up conference calls are just some of the reasons why he makes this argument. Indeed, even I have used it for such purposes, when I did an SEO-training session with a friend of mine.
Our ability to talk in real time and share screens made this an excellent tool to explain SEO, which many people without visual help find challenging. The effects of the training were profound in terms of boosting his book sales. One of his books, "My Germany" landed back on a minor Amazon best seller's list after the training.
He and I also exchange marketing information a lot on social media aside from Skype. We PM regularly about book marketing via Facebook and connect via Twitter.
The same goes, by the way, for Rachel Thompson, who incidentally was the subject of an assignment for another EdTech class of mine. All that I've learned from her has been via social media. In these cases, social media has become the classroom and the source of information.
4. What I Want From This Course…
Introducing Oracle, the Superhero Whose Super Powers are Technology and Intelligence
Remember that part earlier, where I said that social media is a source of all sorts of useful information? Well, here's a real life example that has influenced me as a writer.
four out of five officials used social media to gather intelligence during investigations.
Half said they checked social media at least once a week, and the majority said social media helps them solve crimes faster.
In fact, in my own novel, social media plays such a role. The main character of the book uses it plus a large dose of intuition to figure out what the villain of the book is doing. (No spoilers here…)
This echoes real life crime fighting. Police in the city of Cincinnati "dismantled a local street gang and arrested 71 people in 2008 following a large nine-month investigation that used social media to identify key members."
While I don't expect results that dramatic in my personal life - good lord, I don't need anymore challenges - knowing how such things are used in real life will make my writing that much more effective and believable.
And truthfully, on a more mundane front, I need to develop the discipline to post regularly on social media if I want to get the kind of results that Rachel Thompson gets. I took this class in large part to force myself to develop the know-how and the discipline to use social media to push my career to the next level.
After all, if Oracle and Batman and my pal, Rachel Thompson, can use mediated technology to master their worlds, there's no reason that I shouldn't either.