Thursday, July 26, 2012

How Social Media Is And Can Be A Global Classroom

Google+ is one of the most powerful forerunner amongst
all the Social Networking Sites with collaborative feature
like Google Hangout, Blogs, Wikis, Hangout and Drive.
Just try this activity – Go to Google and search for ‘Social Media’ and you’ll get a whole lot of ideas on marketing, branding and what not, but one sector that social media can seriously turn around is education. I’ve written about it in my earlier posts as well (Can Social Media find a place in Classrooms) on how Social Media is slowly being accepted as a very powerful collaborative learning environment provided it is used appropriately. I always love to refer this using a concept I call the “Fool with a Tool” idea – Give nuclear power to a fool and he would use it as a bomb, give it to a person with sound mind and he will harvest energy. Same tool being used differently. So does that make the tool bad? In my opinion – No!

Social Media has become an integral part of our culture and daily living. One can find everyone from a large company to a small grocery store having their own Facebook account. When I was first proposed with the idea of having social media as a learning environment in the education industry by my colleague Dr. Vikram I was unsure about its application from the business perspective. The idea was definitely interesting but it was new, which means we’d have to break all the three laws of Newton (break inertia, gain momentum & action/reaction). But as we immersed ourselves in this idea and I saw my niece doing her school assignment on Facebook with her friends, I had the energy to drive towards this vision.

Using technology to just do the same stuff that we have always been doing is not exciting, but when that same technology is used for a different purpose it creates a whole new horizon for a greater purpose. Thinking about this idea of having social learning networks today may sound like a dream, but a quick research on this dream by our team shows that Social Media is indeed having a strong impact on how students across the globe interact and learn online. Below are some of the reasons we believe are influencing this impact:

1. It breaks the four- walled barrier of a classroom- Robert Frost wrote his famous lines “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…”. It makes me wonder if he knew the connotation of these lines. Social Media has the power to break the traditional four walled classroom based learning to a whole new world of Global Collaborative learning. One of the best examples we’ve come across of the Social Leaning tool is Classle which combines the power of on online LMS with that of Facebook. Classle has also been mentioned in one of the case studies in our Whitepaper – Socializing Education – Why Collaboration Matters!

2. It’s free- Just image what if schools and colleges run virtual classrooms on Google Hangout or Skype. Imagine the impact it could make to the process of and its outreach. The best part of this initiative is that social networking tools such as Google+, Facebook and Skype are all free. Ok, in reality nothing is free as you’ll still have to pay for your internet and infrastructure technology, but that is it!

3. Make education system more open- The parent who may not know the teacher in the next grade can simply follow their blog to get to know about some of the practices. This breaks down walls and helps to build relationships with families and our community. Earlier, parents weren’t able to see the other classroom’s ‘newsletter’ unless it was passed around; now it is easily shared. Knowing people beforehand will help to break down barriers that may have existed before.

4. Break the cultural barriers- When I was a kid, I used to imagine what it might be like to be a student at a completely new geographical location with a different learning culture. But today kids can easily collaborate on Facebook with their peers and discuss their project on how a steam engine works – Live! This was something I’d never dreamt of as a kid. With social media in place there is so much opportunity to not just read content from different people but even actually talk with them and share our opinions. Having the opportunity to connect with people all over the world breaks down a lot of cultural barriers and builds a stronger understanding. The Global Classroom phenomena!

5. Amplify passion to learn- Passion is a term that has been used a great deal in education. I am a firm believer that we have to build learning upon the passions and interests of our students. We now have the opportunity to not only connect with people of different cultures, but with people with similar interests. The child who feels that others don’t have similar interests in the classroom, is not limited anymore. We can help to facilitate these connections in schools so our students not only feel like part of the crowd, but the passion to learn is stirred within.

I have said this many times before, that education is based upon collaboration and relationships. While people often look at social media as just ‘technology’, we have to see how best it can be used to really bring our world together. If we are proactive in the way we work with kids using social media, there is no limit to what we can do.

Viral Thaker, Founder & Director | TheSocialPeople
A seasoned HR & Marketing professional, Viral was one of the early adopters of social media. With over a decade of industry experience under his belt, his skills span corporate strategy, delivery management, customer relationship management, business development and operations management. Viral is a voracious reader, a travel enthusiast and enjoys adventure sports. Follow Viral on Twitter @vrlthaker

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