Social Media in Learning Environments

Social media types graphic, courtesy of http://c4lpt.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/handbook3.png

 

An Edutopia article coyly reminds us “Social-networking tools aren’t just for flirting.” Truly, social media has evolved to become much more than a way for teens to interact; it is a news source, a collection of personalized interests, a one-stop (or borrow for free) shop, a medium through which users can continuously learn. Social media has become all these things and much more.

In a report on social media use in higher education faculty, a summation of the findings is listed below:

“Virtually all higher education teaching faculty are aware of the major social media sites; more than three-quarters visited a social media site within the past month for their personal use; and nearly one-half posted content. Even more impressive is their rate of adoption of social media in their professional lives: over 90% of all faculty are using social media in courses they’re teaching or for their professional careers outside the classroom.”

Many educational professionals are embracing the popularity of social media to extend the walls of the classroom. Teens and young adults have learned to “reflex-check” personal cell phones and social media. Using technology and social media has become such a frequent occurrence throughout the day that it seems educators have caught on… One of the best ways to encourage thinking about the content outside of the classroom is to enter the social media environment, many students’ playground.

Students and educators are encouraged to grow “Personal Learning Networks” not only to make professional connections, but also to broaden one’s learning base and to continue learning around-the-clock, as illustrated in the following graphic.

How to Grow Your Personal Learning Network with Social Media

 

While social media used to creep into classrooms in more traditional ways (and still do today) in the form of Facebook profile get-to-know-you templates or Twitter template exit tickets, the actual technology is more frequently employed today than ever. Social media use has grown exponentially, and growth has flourished differently among various generations. The Search Engine Journal has depicted this comparative social media growth in a clear and comprehensive infographic. The infographic shows daily Twitter use is declining among users, wheras daily and diverse Facebook use is still exponentially on the rise. It may be well-advised, then, for educators to consider a Facebook page designed to connect learners, but an Edudemic “Ultimate Twitter Guidebook for Teachers” posted in 2010 may be verging on obsolete.

Interestingly, Instagram was not explored as a social medium within this infographic; however, due to personal observations in classrooms I propose that it is a popular form of social media today, which calls for investigation. Within my current summer school classroom, I have explored integrating this social media within my SAT Prep class. Though cell phones are confiscated for the entirety of the class sessions by school supervisors, I noticed students using their cell phones before and after school to respond to and send messages and to monitor likes and comments on Instagram pictures. As such, our class has instituted infrequent homework assignments, which ask students to come up with advice, an example, or a picture to post to Instagram and/or Facebook with the class-invented hashtag of #OnMyWay2400. This hashtag was voted upon in a democracy-like election. It can be conjectured that this hashtag was elected due to its ability to capture in a small tidbit the idea of seeking the perfect SAT score of 2400.

One of the many #OnMyWay2400 Instagram pictures shared to extend the learning environment with social media use

 

It has been enlightening to see what pictures students snap, design, and upload. A word to the wise: if students have private profiles within the social media type used, not all pictures will be visible to all users. While privacy is a wonderful thing, it can also mean closed doors for an assignment designed to be open. Limitations must be understood before integrating a specific technology within a lesson; beyond that, the possibilities are endless for incorporating social media in learning environments. Educators must strive to embrace and integrate technology and social media in the learning process in meaningful and connected ways; indeed, many have already begun.

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