By Shelby Wofford –
Ask a teenage college student how they spend their time on the computer, and they will most likely answer with some form of social networking.
The Texas Social Media Research Institute knows that and is taking steps to educate both students and faculty in how to use the Internet to its full potential, using seminars like April’s “Google Plus vs. Facebook” information session.
Launched in 2011, TSMRI sets out to help make thorough use of the World Wide Web.
Dr. Jennifer Edwards, executive director and researcher for TSMRI, said the organization’s goals include training, research and development of social networking use.
Students are encouraged to take leadership roles within the organization and to learn from the research and tools provided by those in it by offering two educational sessions each month.
During these bi-weekly sessions, attendees are given tools to increase social media productivity, with topics ranging from ways to use Pinterest as a classroom tool to using caution when posting on networking sites.
There was even a session in which students were given tools to create online “e-portfolios” for their future job search.
The organization works with students and faculty alike, helping their performance in the classroom and encouraging alternative and more modern forms of communication between students and professors.
Yvonne Mulhern, co-director and researcher for TSMRI, says that through implementing social media using tools like class Facebook groups, students have constant access to their professors and fellow students, making it easy to “share resources and give opinions on things,” stimulating their involvement in courses.
However, the positive effects of well-educated social media users are not limited to the college campus.
TSMRI student interns and ambassadors play a part in the community with offers for what Edwards calls “externships” with local establishments such as Yogurt Delicious, Keep Stephenville Beautiful and Fossil Rim.
These “externships” have also extended outward, taking students to “all coasts,” according to Edwards.
Mulhern says that TSMRI’s work helps to boost local awareness of the opportunities connected to social media and enables people to learn “more about each other and… current events and how to connect with other people.”
In taking steps to educate others, TSMRI hosts a Social Media Conference each fall, which has attracted more than 200 attendees each year, according to Dr. Edwards, including locals as well as statewide and out-of-state guests.
TSMRI holds sessions such as “How to Use Pinterest in K-12 and Higher Education Classrooms” and “Google Plus Vs. Facebook—Which Social Networking Technology is Better for You?”
The organization has already begun taking bids for the fall 2013 conference to take place Nov. 8 of this year.
Shelby Wofford is a communication studies major from Brownwood, Texas.