Using Google Hangouts and Twitter to bring learning on disaster communication into the classroom

By Karen Zypchyn, Faculty, Bachelor of Communication Studies

I like days like today. “This is what teaching is all about,” I was thinking to myself as my guest speaker, Kat Powers, Director of Communications of Red Cross Eastern Massachusetts, talked to my students via Google Hangouts about disaster communication.

There Powers was, projected on the screen at the front of my class, thanks to Google Hangouts. I had just finished teaching my students about how to use hangouts last week, so the timing was great.

With almost 20 years experience in newsrooms, and now her leap into disaster communication for the American Red Cross in Eastern Massachusetts, Powers has much to offer 21st century communication students. She has also presented webinars on online news and social media at the Poynter Institute. 

And my students seemed to agree that the learning experience was great. Powers had great insight and advice to share with my students, and Powers fielded questions from my students via Twitter (@katpowers) during her presentation.

MacEwan student Miranda Broumas posts a pic to Twitter of Kat Powers, Director of Communication of Red Cross Eastern Massachusetts, talking to the class via Google Hangouts.

MacEwan student Miranda Broumas posts a pic to Twitter of Kat Powers, Director of Communication of Red Cross Eastern Massachusetts, talking to the BCSC 202 Online Communication class via Google Hangouts.

Powers spoke about how the American Red Cross has been using social media to communicate about disaster preparedness to her audience of 4.9 million people in the Eastern Massachusetts area.  That area was recently hit hard with an historic snowstorm. The Twittersphere was busy with people posting comments and photos about their experience of the storm while the news media and Red Cross along with other similar organizations helped people deal with the snowstorm.  Roads were shut down, businesses were closed; major power outages left thousands of people without power.

My students had comments and questions directed at Powers, who was at ease disrupting her train of thought to look at her iPhone and to field tweeted questions from my students. Brilliant, I thought. That’s exactly what my students need to learn to do.

comments and questions for Powers

I was very proud of my students’ effort to engage with Powers. She encouraged them, and they jumped in demonstrating their knowledge of how to communicate via Twitter.

Check out my students’ Twitter posts to learn some of the great advice Powers had to share about communicating through social media networks. Use the Twitter search field and add @katpowers (most are here) or use the hashtag #MacEwanU (a few are here) in the search field.

So much of what we’ve been learning together this term in my BCSC 202 Online Communication course came together today. It was a good day!

 

 

 

 

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