My paper will outline my current project of integrating social media applications into writing and literature courses. It will pay particular attention to how these act as gateways and models to ESL students in Qatar as well as those from non-traditional learning backgrounds. Today classrooms across the globe are filled with students who are wedded to their Smartphones. Instead of banning them, this presentation will discuss how they can be used as an integral part of classes focused on student-led research and writing. Apps like Instagram, Twitter and Youtube link together diverse groups of global communities, and therefore suggest a common language for communication. My paper will examine how these popular social media apps can be used in classroom projects to develop student understanding of narrative, structure, form, voice, authorial intention, and audience reaction. It will focus on utilizing the pre-existing skills and knowledge of a generation of students who are ‘digital natives’ through the tools familiar to them, in order to reconceptualise the process and reception of writing Traditionally, form shapes the way that writing is both transmitted and received: a sonnet or haiku will dictate the structure and composition or a poem, while the physical manifestation of a book signals to the reader the structural limits of the story. The presentation will explore how Twitter voice and style, Instagram narratives and Youtube storytelling each present a model as distinct and formally challenging as a sonnet or novel. Jacques Jouet has suggested, in reference to the Oulipian process of writing through constraints, that “the constraint is the problem; the text the solution” (2001, p.4). The presentation will explore how both practitioners and instructors might respond to the new constraints of online environments to find new ‘solutions’, paying particular attention to how my recent work with the Higher Education Academy in the UK has influenced my practice and research here. In addition, it will suggest ways in which social media apps in the classroom present a range of possibilities for learning about (and indeed experimenting with) character, voice, structure, tone and world-building. As well as speaking to experiences in my own courses in literature and creative writing, I will discuss the ways in which such lessons and activities can be considered in the broader context of undergraduate engagement in the arts and humanities. I will share exercises and examples from my classroom in my presentation, and discuss the cross-curriculum potential for using a number of mobile tools. The presentation will consider a range of possibilities for utilising digital spaces for both discussion, analysis and creation within a classroom format. It will also suggest ways of using the technical, formal, or cross-platform innovations of online applications to extend the lessons beyond the classroom. Consideration will also be given to the problems inherent in using social media platforms for storytelling, and some of the common issues faced by ESL students when using such technology in the undergraduate classroom. In particular, it will address how the creation of digital products, for instance, present a range of issues for instructors in terms of rubrics and assessment, and also relies on instructors being proficient with the latest digital platforms and having the technological skills to both implement and examine the resulting work. I will end by discussing the cross-curriculum potential for such initiatives.


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