Friday, December 9, 2011

Can Social Media ever have an Academic Purpose?

I still remember the days back when I was in school & the teacher would pass out handouts & fliers  These fliers contained information on school events, fundraisers and other important events. Then came the internet in the late 90’s. It was wholeheartedly adopted by Academic institutions and it changed the way they communicate. Search Engine friendly websites and online knowledge database came into being thanks to Google. Exam results, grades and other important announcements were shared on the websites or via emails or via SMS.

Today we’re in the world of web2.0 where the World Wide Web has gone beyond just content sharing. It has now become personal by enabling collaboration and networking. With powerful Social Networking Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Orkut that enable Sharing of videos & content, publishing of research, knowledge sharing and community discussion, It is my belief that Social Media is an ideal platform for Education Sector to adopt.
To further justify this belief, a simple fact that while I am writing this article there are about 9.2 million Facebook users that are between the age group of 13-23 years which makes it the largest group on Facebook that dominates about 40% of total users.
I guess this simple statistic with the fact that the Social Media Landscape today is all equipped to serve as a powerful tool for collaboration and what could soon become the greatest educational instrument ever created.

Problems with Technology in The Education System
When I first started reading into the problems educational institutes have had with technology in the past, much of it seemed to revolve around the misuse of technological tools by the teachers, the students or the administration.
For example, academic administrators fear that by having computers in the classroom, students will be tempted to play games, instant message with their friends, or even look at pornography instead of paying attention to the instructions that are being given in the classroom.
While these fears may sound a little absurd to someone like me who knows how to use these new technological tools appropriately, the fears and concerns expressed above are founded in reality.
That being said, most (if not all) of these cases were created because of an error made by a person – not a machine! The tools are not the problem. The people are the problem.
How Social Media Should Be Used For Education and Community Outreach?
That being said, I think social media, the Internet and technology in general is giving schools an incredible opportunity to communicate with their parents, teachers, and students in a way that has never been done in the past.
The fact of the matter is, the way we communicate and interact with the people around us is becoming ever more transparent. The worlds between work and play are colliding. The lines between business and personal are being crossed and the way things were done in the past won’t be possible in the future – unless, of course, you disconnect yourself from the grid entirely.
If our education system is ever going to catch up with the rest of society and jump on board the Web 2.0 bandwagon, we’ve got to change the way we think about technology in our classrooms and in our community. We can no longer view the Internet as something for the home, because it isn’t!
I honestly believe that if these new online technologies were used appropriately in the classroom, students could learn more on the Internet in a matter of weeks than they could learn in a traditional classroom in a matter of years. The trick to this progression in thinking and learning, however, is an appropriate use and understanding of how the Internet and the new social medial tools are meant to be used.

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