Having PR students teach me about mobile, social, software, websites and more. Educate the teacher, please!

Some days I feel like a horrible teacher. There are all these cool new “things” (programs, applications, websites, etc.) out there that I keep hearing about and there is no way for me to learn enough about them to pass information on to my students. Here is just a partial list of what I want to know more about this semester:

  1. Facebook Insights
  2. Hootsuite/TweetDeck/Seesmic
  3. 3D Worlds/Second Life
  4. Alexa/Compete/Quantcast
  5. Pinterest
  6. Wikipedia
  7. Help a Reporter Out
  8. My6thSense
  9. Pitch Engine

10. Flicker/Picasa
11. Tumblr
12. Dropbox
13. Groupon
14. Loopt/Gowalla/MyTown
15. Delicious
16. Reddit/Digg/StumbleUpon
17. QR Codes
18. Reporting On
19. Journalisted (UK only?)
20. Beatblogging
21. Google+
22. Google Alerts
23. Google Adwords Keyword tool
24. Google Analytics
25. Google Insights for Search
26. PeerIndex
27. Klout
28. SocialMention
29. Hubspot
30. Prosyna
31. Mention.net
32. Foursquare/SCVNGR/Yelp
33. YouTube & Analytics
34. Website Grader and WooRank
35. Buzzstream
36. LinkedIn
37. Prezi
38. Ping.fm
39. Wolfram/Alpha
40. Boardtracker and Boardreader
41. CleanHaven
42. Diigo
43. Feedburner
44. Wibiya
45. Social Oomph
46. CoTweet
47. Kapost
48. GroupTweet
49. RSS Feeds
50. NetVibes
51. Veeple
52. Slideshare
53. MyAllTop
54. Landerapp
55. StatMyWeb
56. Wired Journalists
57. Radian6
58. Buffer
59. Bit.ly/Ow.ly
60. NameChk
61. Your Pitch Sucks
62. Sprout Social
63. Weebly

Some of these I know enough about to be dangerous — just give the students a brief overview of what the “thing” is, but not how or why to use it. But what I want is for them to understand the new tools available and how to best use them in their jobs. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible for me to keep up with all these. So, what’s a teacher to do? That’s when I am reminded of this fabulous quote about learning by Ben Franklin:

This is when we, as teachers, need to involve the students by  having them educate one another (and in the process, educate the teacher). I consider myself a lifelong learner. I love teaching, but I love learning more. And isn’t that the beauty of education? That  we can all learn from one another.

Take, for instance, what my students are teaching me about Instagram. Not only are they teaching me about photo streams and sharing, but they are teaching me they crave TRUTH. How? By posting photos of their food…. wait, what? That’s right. Think about it. In the past we saw food photos/ads like this:

…where the “ice cream” was most likely mashed potatoes and who know what the brown bits were made of. After all, we all know our ice cream, hamburgers, sub sandwiches, salads, etc. were never going to look like the photos, right? So what are people sharing the most on Instagram? Food that looks good, but also is real. I don’t think they are taking pictures of food because they are going to be food artists, I think they are taking them because they are seeing reality and they want to share a beautiful truth. That food/images can look good without being fake.

When students teach me about the various new tools out there; about how and why they would use them; about best practices for using them in the future, they are not just teaching me about the tool – I get to see their reality. That’s why I employ this method in my classes (though some say it’s because teachers are too lazy to keep up with new technology). For example, using SCVNGR in my PR Writing class not only lets me share a bit about this cool geolocation-based mobile application with them, but I also get to see how they WANT to use it in promotions. And they come up with some really cool stuff:)

Now, if I can just get one of them to teach me how to Dougie….