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Photo: Andy Melton/Creative Commons

Penn's faculty members are keeping up with the latest social media trends.

A number of Penn professors, deans and administrators use Twitter as a platform for their personal life, as well as for work. Many share their research and communicate with other academics, and some even integrate Twitter into their classes.

Earth and environmental science professor Alain Plante has gone so far as to create individual Twitter accounts for each class that he teaches. He manages them using a tool called TweetDeck.

“I’m following a lot of organizations and agencies relevant to that course, watching that activity and will bring some of that to the attention of the class when it’s relevant,” Plante said. 

He will “favorite” content for later and then tweet them out on the day that lecture corresponds with the topic of the tweet. Right now, his most active Twitter account is ENVS200, named after the class he’s teaching this semester.

In his freshman seminar connected to ENVS200, Plante even assigns students to use Twitter as a central part of the curriculum. He calls it the “Twit-Earth” project.

“Each week they are monitoring a curated list of Twitter feeds and retweeting one — their favorite tweet or something that caught their attention — and then making a comment, or some kind of reflection,” he said.

Plante also has a personal account that he uses for sharing his research and communicating with fellow academics.

“Sometimes we’ll get in debates and arguments in 140 characters at a time," he said. "It’s very hard, but it’s been interesting sometimes."

University Chaplain Chaz Howard also integrates social media into one of the classes he teaches, called Heart of Social Change.

In the class, he said in an email, students “explore the role that social media can play in bringing about social change around awareness-raising, education and democratizing information.”

He praised Twitter as an important platform for the Black Lives Matter movement and uses it for his own contributions to social justice causes. 

But not everything Howard tweets is serious business.

“I also love supporting Penn sports on social media or sharing a good quote that I recently read,” Howard said.

Not all Penn administrators and professors use twitter for coursework. Dean of Admissions Eric Furda is very active on Twitter, but with a different purpose in mind. He said he sees it as a way to “promote Philadelphia as a place for college students and as a destination, promote community atmosphere and promote what happens in the classroom.”

He also tweets out his fair share of advice about the admissions process and often links to his blog, where he has longer articles and gives more in-depth guidance. But that means a lot of his followers are prospective high schoolers, and his follower count can take a hit when they don’t get in.

“Numbers go down come March 31,” Furda said.

Furda said he sees the job of his Twitter account as a 50/50 split — 50 percent giving advice and 50 percent promoting “a sense of place” at Penn. Earlier this week he tweeted out a picture of the bright orange leaves on a tree in front of College Hall.

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