No need to be shy! Making Public Health teaching social!


I love social media. I love to use it both personally and professionally (and I am keeping the two separate). I have also been known to bug my work colleagues and professors to start using social media themselves wearing their professional hats. My endeavours have not been met with much success (yet) but I am not giving up! Perhaps this post will help!

There are a lot of reasons why it makes sense to use social media in Public Health: dissemination of research findings, staying up to date with latest news, networking with colleagues, taking part in useful discussions and -why not?- having some fun. For a very thorough and well done review on the use of social media in public health communication I highly recommend reading this report by Nina Bjerglund as found in her Public Health Science Communication 2.0 blog (which happens to be one of our favourite blogs).

In this blog post, I would like to focus on using social media in Public Health teaching. I don’t teach myself but -for some reason- I am fascinated by the use of less “traditional” means for teaching. I have blogged in the past about the use of games in public health teaching (updated here) and also had some existential questions about the use of social media in public health in general. But what about actively using social media for teaching public health students? Does anyone do it? How does it work?

I started by posing a simple question on twitter:

I was happy to receive some replies (who isn’t? ), especially since they came from people whose work in public health I admire

Antoine Flahaul, Professor of Medicine in Biostatistics at Université de Paris Descartes and former Dean of Sorbonne Paris Cité was the first one to reply:

I was not surprised. Professor Flahault is active on twitter and also regularly blogs since 2007! In this blog post he describes how he has used twitter during epidemiology lectures: In a lecture room with almost 200 students he asked them to reply to specific questions using twitter. The students’ tweets appeared real-time in the projection screen behind him. During 6 lectures (and 12 hours of teaching) he received a total of 732 tweets which adds up to 61 replies per hour. And he rightly wonders: “How could I ever have enabled nearly 200 people gathered together in a lecture hall to take part to this extent?”

Leah Roman, Public Health consultant and owner of perhaps my all-time favourite Public Health blog was also kind enough to reply

The idea is simple: asking students to tweet before and during lecture, using the class name for a hashtag. I am curious to see how this went and I will update this blog post when I find out!

Other Public Health lecturers, like Nedra Weinreich,  also try to make their students use twitter in- and outside the classroom: