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What’s Changing? Navigating a ‘New Normal’ in 2021

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What’s Changing in Fall 2021?

Welcome back! Fall 2021 is in full swing.

Traditionally, I begin the academic year with a “What’s Changing” blog post (example: my 2019 What’s Changing post). In these posts, I share my big picture plans for the fall semester, and sometimes for the spring as well. Last fall, I broke that tradition with a post that I hope provided some encouragement to the education community.

Continue reading What’s Changing? Navigating a ‘New Normal’ in 2021

A Note to My Fellow Educators: Thank You (p.s. It’s Okay to be Exhausted)

The 2020-2021 academic year is drawing to a close for many of us. Thought you may not have felt like it at times, you have done an incredible job this past school year.

In my final announcement to my students, I thanked them for showing up. I told them that I hoped that, if nothing else, this school year helped them see how resilient they truly are. I share these words because the same goes for all the educators out there. Thank you for the sacrifices you made. Thank you for showing up.

As I wrote back in September:

You are good enough. You are awesome.

During this long, strange academic year we have had to adapt to a new world.  Many of us have learned to grow our skills in new vectors while shrinking the scope of our pre-pandemic plans. Throughout this journey through anxious times, we have dealt with uncertainty and tragedy.

As educators, we have a talent for self-laceration. Perhaps it is the fact that academic work often involves less oversight that we find ourselves playing the dual roles of motivator and motivated. As such, we may have struggled this year with thoughts like: “I should have done more of (fill in the blank),” or “my productivity this year has been a fraction of what it was last year.” Those kinds of thoughts just create more stress when pandemic-related obligations or restrictions get in the way of getting things done. Let those thoughts go.

My summer plans are, in many respects, probably not much different from yours. That is, I plan to play a lot of catch up. But, in doing so, I’m going to challenge myself to be mindful of the (often self-imposed) pressure of finishing all that went unfinished, or in many cases, unstarted, this past academic year. Can we put that pressure aside, at least for a little while, and work on our to do list while practicing self care?

Lately, I’ve been reminding myself a lot of something someone said to me once: “Stop trying to be perfect and start being human.”

You deserve a break. You deserve rest. It has been a hard year. And that is okay. It is okay to be exhausted. It is okay to be human. You do not need anyone’s permission.

Kermit, I love you, but I’m not sure I agree with the ‘that’s none of my business’ sentiment. In a way, I think it is all of our business to ensure we are supporting each other as whole people.

It is important to decompress. It is important to take time for yourself and for your loved ones. What you have been able to get done during a global pandemic is and was enough. Full stop.

So I plan to spend a lot of time this summer doing simple things to focus on the whole of me. This pandemic has taught me, for example, that I like to make homemade almond milk and oat milk (tweet at me for the recipes. Both are super simple to make). This summer, I plan to learn how to make vegan homemade ice cream (just bought an ice cream maker!!!), bond with my child in nature, and sit on my deck and listen to the morning birds. This pandemic has taught me the value of many things I was too in a rush to do or to notice.

But wait… who am I to tell you that you deserve a break? Let’s be real. I’m a person with a section on his blog titled “Be more Productive.” The irony of me in 2021 writing this blog post is not lost on me. Like many of you, I’ve developed into a compulsive worker.

One school of thought is that it is risky to take time to yourself in an ever-changing world. I think that the pandemic has taught us that we need to push back against that mantra and realize that we risk losing who we truly are if we do not carve out a space for the whole self. During this pandemic, many academics have shared stories of or concerns about burnout in academia. A candle that has burned out cannot light a path for others. The same is true for academics. With that in mind, it is imperative that we do take time for ourselves.  If taking time for yourself feels selfish, then do it for me. Allow me to be the selfish one here and say that I want the best version of you out there impacting lives, advancing knowledge, changing the course of humanity.

At the start of fall 2020 academic year as we entered the uncertainty of the COVID classroom era, I wrote  “We are in a time of revaluation. We are in a time where our compassion and humanity are our greatest assets.”

I hope we do not lose sight of our compassion and humanity as we move forward. This summer, I hope to keep my eye on compassion and humanity in my own life and in the lives of others.  I hope you will remain cognizant of your own humanity and approach yourself with compassion as you slide into summer in 2021.

Disruption engenders change. In what direction do you want to change moving forward?

From one educator to another, I sincerely thank you for everything you have done and continue to do.

Tweet at me your plans to take some ‘me time’ this summer. This is a question I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It is important that we have more conversations about self-care, burnout, and the role they play in fulfilling, meaningful work in academia. Let’s talk.

Have a wonderful summer! I look forward to connecting in the fall!

Be well!


A Note to My Fellow Educators: You Are Awesome

Fall 2020 is like no other academic year we have experienced.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges that impact our institutions, our lives, our teaching, and the lives of our students. Simply put, we are in a time of disruption – both personally and professionally.

I started this blog with the goal of sharing my work in the classroom with others. My hope is to make teaching a little less stressful and a little more fun, all while helping our students prepare to be ethical and excellent professional communicators.

Like many of you, I spent much of this summer reflecting on deep questions. I spent a good deal of that time preparing for the academic year ahead and coming to terms with what can be controlled and what cannot be. But I also spent a good deal of that time making sure to cherish and enjoy the present moment.

We are in a time of revaluation. We are in a time where our compassion and humanity are our greatest assets.

On this blog, I have generally started each semester by providing sample syllabi from my classes in a series I call “What’s Changing?” But this year, with things being so different, I want to start the semester with something so very different. I am going to go out on a limb and hope that this post offers a reminder that is of some help to you, my friends and fellow educators.

Continue reading A Note to My Fellow Educators: You Are Awesome

Social Media users praise brands in private and criticise in public

This is my first “reblog!” I want to share a great blog post by Ana Canhoto that I came across. This article describes the results of her research into social media and electronic word of mouth about brands. Specifically, the study looks at positive and negative online expression of consumer experiences with a brand. Enjoy!

Very interesting research –  I will be following her work and her blog! Check it out at

– Cheers!


Interview with social media marketing professor Jeremy Floyd (G+ Hangout)

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The semester is done. The grades are in.

It is time to reflect on the semester – what went well, what challenges we faced, what we learned, and what we plan to do to improve for next semester.

This evening I had the opportunity to talk about just that on a Google+ Hangout with social media / marketing professor Jeremy Floyd (@jfloyd). Jeremy teaches social media at the undergraduate and MBA level at University of Tennessee Chattanooga. He is also president at BlueGill Creative and brings with him a great deal of business experience into the classroom (more about Jeremy).

In the broadcast, Jeremy shares a ton of great insight about his teaching experiences, his goals, unanticipated surprises in the classroom, and his thoughts on how digital tools and the changing information landscape may impact education.

I learn a great deal from Jeremy every time we talk and truly appreciate his sharing his passion for, and knowledge of,  social media and digital. I particularly enjoyed our discussion on grades and assignments, and how grades can get in the way of education, as well as hearing how Jeremy uses Google Plus hangouts as a digital classroom, and how he’s integrated Twitter chats (he also has an overview blog post about it).

I highly recommend Jeremy’s blog if you aren’t currently subscribed.


This is the second Google+ Hangout broadcast from our LinkedIn group – Teaching Social Media Marketing and Management.

Watch the first broadcast on Social Media Measurement.

Join us for Social Media Professor Google Plus Hangout Weds 5-22!

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Happy Tuesday! Tomorrow we will be holding our second Social Media Professor Google Plus hangout where professors teaching social media around the country get together to talk shop. The event will be broadcast on Google Plus and available for on demand viewing (check back later in the week for the video).

I’m excited (and a little nervous) to be hosting the event for the first time. The topic will be a great one:

Major skill sets we should be teaching to prepare our students to excel in the social media economy.

If your teach social media and care to join in on the the Google+ hangout, we’d love to have you. Our last two hangouts have been a ton of fun and I’ve learned a great deal from professors who are leaders in the field of social media education. Drop me a comment below or via Twitter, and I’ll send you a G+ invite. Or check out our LinkedIn group: Teaching Social Media Marketing and Management.

You can watch our most recent discussion on social media analytics.

Hope everyone is enjoying summer! It is starting to get hot here in West Virginia!

– Cheers! Matt


Summer Reading List: Social Media Books

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If you’re like me – growing up, summertime meant summer reading and Book It! I have many fond memories of cool pins and personal pan pepperoni pizzas at the local Pizza Hut in our small town in Rhode Island. My father would buy our family a pitcher of soda (this is in the pre-free refill days) and I’d proudly order my Book It! Pizza. Now that I’m all grown up – I’m not getting Pizza Hut trips for my reading. But I still love to read in the summer.

Here are a few social media books I will be checking out this summer. I plan to write brief reviews / thoughts about each. Some I will be reading cover to cover, others picking out chapters.

Toa of Twitter – By Mark Schaefer

This is my first introduction to Mark Schaefer and I’m glad I found his work. I’m about 60% done with this book – just haven’t had a chance to finish. While the book offers a bit of an introduction to what Twitter is and how to use it, it is a bit more about the culture of Twitter. With so many folks out there broadcasting away on Twitter and always thinking about “what’s in it for me?”, I think this book re-teaches us many things we seem to have forgot –  helping others, adding value, building relationships, and giving back, a la Dale Carnegie’s famous book. I mentioned this book and Born to Blog (below) in a previous post, where author Mark Schaefer participated in a video lecture with Don Stanley’s class at U Wisconsin-Madison.

Born to Blog – By Mark Schaefer and Stanford Smith

Of all the books I’m reading this summer, this may be the one I’m most excited about. I’m about 50% done. I’ll hold off on any detailed analysis – but to sum it up, I’ve learned a ton from this book. It is quick and easy to read and really gets you thinking about why your blogging, who your audience is, and what skills you have to offer. I’m fairly new to blogging and this book has been a great motivator for me. I am considering using this book for my Social Media class next fall. Highly recommend.

Measure What Matters: Online Tools for Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships by Paine

I’m considering using this book in my Communication Research class, as mentioned in our last social media professor G+ Hangout. I’m a few chapters in – so not much to comment on here. Thus far the author has provided a fairly strong case for why research is so important in today’s media environment and seeks to debunk arguments from those skeptical or afraid of campaign research. The book also offers (somewhat non-specific) processes for getting a measurement program together. The strength thus far seems to be in its explanation of what to measures given the situation at hand. I always struggle with research texts for class as the writing usually seems inaccessible to many students. I don’t think that will be the case here. The book does lack in depth explanation of many advanced topics that a textbook would offer, but this book isn’t meant to.

Share This! The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals – The Chartered Institute of Public Relations

Just got my hands on this. The book is a few years old, and a newer version is due out some time this year. I haven’t had a chance to read any of this yet. Each chapter is written by a different author offering insights into how social media impacts different facets of PR.

Any fond memories to share from Book It!? What are you reading this summer? Are there books you recommend I read that aren’t on my list? Have you read any of these books above? What did you think? I’d love to hear your suggestions or thoughts in the comments below.

Happy Friday!

– Cheers!