Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Can Social Media find a place in the Classroom? (Research)

Growing number of Educators say a “Yes” – says a research!

The post, “Can Social Media ever have an Academic Purpose”, is one of the most consistently viewed article on this blog. Similarly, “Why the Education sector is keen to adopt Social Media?”, resulted in the 2nd most trafficked day here this month. While Facebook and Twitter are both hugely popular Internet tools, I still find myself a little surprised by the popularity of these posts, considering the academic perspective of we - TheSocialPeople. Upon a general research online amongst the Academic community, I learnt that many teachers, even those at online universities, are hesitant to use such popular tools, given their inherent risk of exposing students to inappropriate content.

Of course these are two very different types of tools, but they both have their place in the social networking sphere. Facebook’s place is at the top of the heap (as of this writing it is the second most popular site on the Internet, right behind Google), while Twitter defined the genre of “micro blogging” (but much of its use is also in a social networking context).

It appears that Twitter is more widely used in the classroom, based on the volume of articles on this topic that I have come across during my online research. One obvious reason for this difference is that Facebook is limited to ages 13 and over, while Twitter has no age restrictions. Facebook is also more likely to be restricted on school networks. Perhaps if teachers were more aware of how a Facebook page and profiles can be configured to provide an appropriate level of privacy for course work, they (and school administrators) might be more open to considering its use (more on that below). Of course, there are also other educational scenarios that lend themselves more readily to a tool like Facebook, such as online universities and online courses.

Here are a few of the examples of Facebook playing a productive role in the classroom that I have come across. I will be doing a detailed case study about the use of popular social networking applications in the classroom and will discuss examples like these, and others that I learn about on this blog in the coming months:

·         Professor Gideon Burton’s work with Facebook: I first learned about Professor Burton during a random search on Facebook on “Social Media Education” where I ended up on a profile of a student where she commented, 

In my British Literary History course last winter semester, my professor created a class Facebook group which we all joined.  We’d finish our reading for class and then get online and write a paragraph about what we’d read, focusing our comments on the specific course aims that my professor had created for the class.  We would then go to class where my professor would note the ways in which we’d covered the material well and he’d teach anything we missed as well as anything else he wanted us to know.” 

This was definitely a lovely insight on how a simple initiative and lead to an effective collaborative learning environment. It really justifies my statement I always habitually quote in context to this – “A tool is after all just a tool, the real person to blame is the person who chooses to use it or abuse it.

Click here to visit a Facebook discussion group for one of Professor Burton’s Early British Lit classes.

·         University of South Florida teacher uses Facebook in class: I recently came across this article about USF graduate student Alessandro Cesarano, who teaches a Beginning Spanish class, and uses Facebook for homework assignments and class discussions in lieu of Blackboard. Cesarano is seen quoting that he likes the Facebook page better than Blackboard because students have more access to authentic cultural material, and so it saves him a lot of time that otherwise he had to invest to train people on how to use the Learning tool.

·         Facebook has recently launched a “Groups at [University Name]” feature as an initiative to promote a highly collaborative learning environment amongst the Educational Institutions. This article explains on how this feature works and also disproves a lot of accusations on Facebook that it is a major distraction in the pursuit of a Learning tool. Honestly I am really excited to look at this feature to be rolled out to more schools and other communities.

Below is the snap shot of my comment that I couldn’t help put up on the trail and it’s corresponding comment:

On the whole the prospect of Social Media and Education eventually going hand-in-hand is no longer a matter of choice. From the data that I see, IT IS THE FUTURE. It’s just the matter of time that people start accepting it. So the real question here is not whether Social Media can/cannot be an ideal learning platform; I guess a choice on this is already made globally and the real question is on “HOW to make Social Media an ideal learning platform. I would be writing on this in my blog in the near future. 

To conclude - like any great idea even this one (Social Media collaborating with Education) has to go through all the 3 laws of Newton – Inertia, Momentum & Friction!

I’m really excited to see the day when Learning becomes Social in every way, global networking will be the essence of learning rather than limiting it to 4 walls, projects & assignment would be done & rated globally and over all to the day when there'll no illiteracy on the face of this planet.

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