It's nice to share.
Encouraging use of social media in education at first seems counterintuitive; after all, social media is often what students are busy engaging with whilst supposedly typing lecture notes on their portable devices; it’s a tool of procrastination, and hence the work of the devil (or his online memey alter-ego, basement cat?)! But consideration of social media in education is not necessarily in an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” sense, but more an appreciation of the social part, rather taking the opportunity to harness the engaging and addictive qualities of social media and use their powers for good, not evil. I’ll just mention some of the more useful contenders..
Youtube has obvious application for teaching in the sharing of lecture videos, though the public nature of this venue means that such videos are not private. For short video messages to a student group this is less of an issue, but for an entire course of hour-long lectures there may arise concerns of intellectual property and copyright. Youtube’s greatest benefit for learning is the proliferation of videos by every kind of author on all sorts of topics – no matter the subject matter there’s almost certainly a video out there for it, including several featuring feline protagonists. Videos are organised into various categories, including a large education section, which is further segregated into videos relevant to primary, lifelong learning, and university contexts. Searching may be undertaken within these groups, and results may be filtered by lectures and courses. In addition to being a venue for uploading your own or downloading somebody else’s information, Youtube may be useful in education as a collaborative task for students, for example the creation and sharing of student presentations.
Twitter is a social networking tool that may be used in teaching by helping to establish and support the kind of learning community I discussed in the blog post, but it also has greater potential for social learning in tertiary education that one might expect from a micro-blogging tool hobbled by a stilted
word character limit. It is a fast, low-effort way to get in touch with all students for various reasons, including to make quick announcements, to share blog posts, or to report on interesting articles, research, or other links. Intended recipients may receive posts by subscribing to your Twitter feed, and also by use of a searchable hashtag to designate and locate tweets of a particular topic; eg. #EDED20485. There is functionality also for actual teaching and learning; many Twitter accounts by paramedic and medical groups feature regular question/answer tweets, brief mindbender challenges that may be followed up by an answer in a subsequent tweet, or link on to further information or an actual article or lesson on a full website. I feel Twitter would be a good adjunct to blogging for this reason, and another way to increase interaction between students and faculty. Twitter also has great professional application as a networking tool – I have met many paramedic colleagues from across the globe, and have shared with them much information either directly or in the form of links and referrals. Many professional bodies share news and updates via Twitter, for example MedPage Today post daily updates on peer-reviewed medical research and industry news. It takes just a moment to sign up and get going, and one’s tweets on news, study, and other Very Important Things may easily be embedded into other websites via widgets (as I have done to the right of this page), and integrated directly to bidirectionally share updates with other social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+.
LinkedIn is a professional social networking site that may be of more use for connectivism in teaching than for actual teaching, but may help engage in social media, start putting themselves out there and making connections, and as such form a peripheral part of their study and work-related social media activities.
Facebook is the quintessential space for your face, but does it have application as a learning place? One of the most versatile features of Facebook are the many applications available within the platform, including the ability to create groups, pages, and forums, and easily link them all together and share amongst select individuals and other groups. For example, it is possible to create a Facebook page for your learning group, and to add students via their own Facebook profiles. Those added to the group are able to still maintain privacy by using account settings to limit the amount of access other group members have to their profile, whilst remaining easily identifiable and able to interact with staff and other students upon the Facebook page. Creation of a page is quick and easy – I’ve just now created one here for this post, and the entire setup took just ten minutes. The page can be used for making posts for others to comment upon, to publish course information and announcements, and restrictions may be put in place regarding publishing and viewing rights to the page. I have found that is quite limited in functionality as you are unable to use html, share files, or adjust the layout much beyond the Facebook timeline, so as a tool it remains more social than functional. It does that well though, as the ability to integrate with other tools and applications is a major feature, such as using the Social RSS app to share blog and Youtube feeds. Facebook pages are well respected by search engines, and this is enormous potential reach through sharing and advertisement if desired. See the Pages help page here, or download Facebook Pages Product Guide for more information. There is also the ability to create a Facebook Group – my test example – which may be more suitable than the page. The layout is simpler, featuring just a wall, with ability to create simple text documents and both private and group message functionality to all group members.
Blogs – Blogger, WordPress, et al – I have already covered in their own post.
Overall, whilst the choice of social media is mindboggling, the applications and use of many of these do overlap to significant degrees. I’ve only covered some of the largest and most recognised tools but even within this small group there is some redundancy in features, so choosing which tools to involve in your teaching will mean pruning away those potential choices with less to offer. Of the few I’ve looked at today, whilst many students will already be very familiar with Facebook, and it is easy for group members to see and contribute to posts, there are enough limitations that using a more functional tool such as Wiki would be a better option despite the fact that students may be unfamiliar with this platform.