New classes teach students about technology, social media

Temple is offering classes focused on modern technology.

Dana Dawson said there’s an “experiment” happening at Temple, but she didn’t mean one involving lab coats and goggles.

Dawson, the assistant director of the General Education Program, helped coordinate a new course, Demystifying Technology.

The computer literacy class is currently in its first semester and can fulfill either the Human Behavior or Science & Technology requirement. It’s one of several experimental courses launching at Temple that prepare students for a rapidly changing world.

Dawson said that although Temple already has excellent courses on technological literacy, this is the first to feature six professors from several different colleges, each of whom teaches a separate two-week micro-course on topics ranging from the technical side of the digital age to its cultural context.

She said modern technology is a complex, ever-changing subject and “the modular nature of this course allows it to reflect that multifaceted aspect of technology in our lives.”

“I like that Temple is integrating more new courses because a lot of advertising and what’s in the world now is moving more towards digital and social media,” said Briana Lafferty, a senior advertising major.

Lafferty is one of the first students to take Social Media Marketing, another experimental course which started at Temple this semester.

Matthew Ray, the professor of the class, said students study the role of social media in advertising and current events.

Ray, a 2003 journalism and political science alumnus, has worked in the social media industry and taught a similar program at University of the Arts. He said he couldn’t resist the opportunity to teach Social Media Marketing at his alma mater.

“Social media is a huge field, and you’re going to see colleges grasp with that in the same way that colleges have programs in multiple classes devoted to radio, broadcasting, television and print,” he added. “We’re going to see that unfold at Temple, but this is just the beginning.”

Because the subject is so new, Ray said there is no set lesson plan and “students who take it this semester are definitely contributing to what the curriculum will look like next semester.”

Lafferty said she likes how the class stays relevant by incorporating current events into lessons every day, instead of following a rigid syllabus.

“Something could happen overnight and the next morning you’re going to be talking about it,” she said.

Ray said no matter what careers they pursue, it’s important for students to understand social media, to “speak the language and be able to build relationships with people within their company that are going to be doing social media, in whatever form that is.”

Starting Spring 2017, Temple will offer students another new elective, Marijuana in the News, which will be taught by Linn Washington.

Washington said Temple will be the third university in the nation to offer a journalism course focusing on marijuana.

The course won’t just be worthwhile for journalism students, he said. It’s also meant to provide “an understanding that could be applicable if they’re in advertising, if they’re in public relations, if they’re in business, if they’re in criminal justice, if they’re in medicine.”

“Students need to have a better understanding of this subject, which has been shrouded in misunderstanding for decades,” he said

If marijuana becomes legal nationally, Washington said it could transform into a $50 billion industry by 2020. He said students should be prepared to work in such a drastically changing environment.

“It speaks highly of the culture at Temple,” Washington said. “Professors have the opportunity to create coursework that fits in with the cutting edge of whatever the particular subject is.”

Carr Henry can be reached at

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Dana Dawson created Demystifying Technology. Dawson coordinated the course.

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