Organization of the Masses
My second semester was even better, and more hectic, than the first. I was feeling more at ease with classes, homework, and other students, as the awkwardness of being a senior citizen in college diminished. To be honest, I simply did not have time to feel awkward. Four new classes kept me hopping from the start. In History class, there were so many writing assignments due, at different times, that even with my syllabus handy and the calendar I carried everywhere, I was sure I would miss at least one deadline. In Media, my professor promised to post a review sheet a week before each test, but there was so much information to learn for each unit that I seriously had doubts about doing well in this class. I knew I would need help with my Writing II class, because the syllabus made absolutely no sense to me. And I was not the only student overwhelmed by the semester ahead. My friend, Anna, from last semester’s English class, told me she was dropping Biology after the first day because she was sure she could not complete the lab work and reports with the other classes she had. Tyler, who sits behind me in History class said he was leaving college after this semester (his second year) because he just did not have time for classes, homework, family and a job. Neither of these young students were lazy or unwilling to do the work to be successful in college, yet both were convinced they could not get the work done and fulfill their personal obligations at the same time. It broke my heart. There just had to be a way to help them, and I was determined to find it.
The best way to tackle a large project is to break it down to smaller projects. If the class is considered the “large” project, homework assignments and tests could be divided into smaller, more attainable goals. I learned from Dr. W. in my first Writing class, that the final paper is not so daunting when you consider the assignments leading up to it are smaller parts of the final work. This theory was reinforced when I looked at the syllabus for Writing II. However, all that poor Jill, who sat beside me, saw was a research project that would require hours of library time and even more hours of writing and revising, in addition to her other classes. I saw short assignments, gradually becoming longer, all on the same topic, from different views that would eventually lead to the basis of the research project. I explained my way of thinking to Jill, who did not understand, and left class that day fulling intending to drop that class. There had to be a way for students to help each other, without overwhelming anyone with study groups, or tutors, that take even more time and scheduling.
When faced with overwhelming obstacles, stick with what you know. My fellow classmates were, for the most part, stressed out by trying to balance school, jobs, families, and social lives. They were also adept at using the new and improved avenues of social media. It seemed like everyone was texting, tweeting, using FaceBook and email to keep in constant contact with the world. It occurred to me that students use social media constantly, but they are not using it to it’s full potential. Why not take the social media they are so familiar with and make it work for them to organize and get help with their classes? I believe it is possible to use the current social media to form groups, social networks, in each class that would provide support, reminders, and study aid in a way that everyone would benefit.
Organization is the key to accomplishing more in less time. Since I am not as skilled in social media as my classmates, I started with what I knew best, which is email. The first test in my Media class was a disaster for the students sitting around me. I spoke to each student that complained of low scores and all night studying. In the end, I had eight students who willingly gave me their email addresses and agreed to take part in my email Study Buddy group. When the review sheet for a test was posted, I would go through it, type the questions and answers I knew, and email it to the other group members. They, in turn, would go through my email and correct it, add any missing answers, and email it back to the other members. Within a few hours, all nine of us had a complete review to study. And my classmates did study. Without having to spend hours combing through class notes and textbooks, there was more time left to study a large volume of information. All scores on the first test, after we formed the email Study Buddies, went up at least one grade. We all did better! The social network we formed through email worked to save time, reduce stress, and help us to help each other. We continued with the Study Buddy group for the rest of the class and even with sporadic attendance and lackluster homework assignments by some of the group, all nine of us passed with a grade above C.
Bolstered by the success with email Study Buddies, I moved to History class. There were so many varied assignments due throughout the semester that it was impossible for even the most diligent student to keep up. I decided to use an Early Warning System, using the social media of texting. I formed a network of twelve students who each agreed to be responsible for one assignment deadline. Each student would text the other members of our group seven days prior to an assignment due date and text a reminder four days before the date. In reducing the number of assignments each student had to remember, there was more time to concentrate on other things that needed attention. The Early Warning System was a complete success in my History class. All twelve members of this network turned in their respective assignments on time, every time.
Ultimately, the social networks we form with other people in our lives, are most essential to organization. Social media, texting, tweeting, Facebook, and email are just avenues to keep us in touch with each other. But they should also be used to help us organize and succeed in any endeavor we choose. I left this semester excited about my discovery and the results of using social media to help my classmates. But this experiment also left me feeling like this may be just the tip of the iceberg. There was much to do.
And the first thing I had to do was sign up and learn to work with Facebook. This is not going to be easy….