We were asked to reflect upon our views on social media in education, so I thought it pertinent to begin with a definition. One of the most straightforward and unambiguous interpretations comes from Google (define: “social media”) – “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” If one considers the plethora of websites, smartphone and tablet apps that are put forward as ‘social media’, it’s not hard to see why the ubiquitous nature of social media poses important questions for education.
My views on social media
I have a mixed point of view here. I can see easily both sides of the social media in schools debate. I appreciate that a student’s “world view is different” (Kathy Cassidy) due to advancements made in technology in the 21st century, and that social media could comprise valuable tools to enhance teaching and learning. However, I also think that teachers need to consider carefully the purpose of why they choose to use social media in their classrooms. If the purpose of using social media is to facilitate discussion and share resources, much like a modern version of a Learning Management System (LMS), then I’m all for it. If the purpose is not as clear and social media is being used because it is seen by others as the latest trend to get into, then you’ve lost my interest.
How I use social media for PD
The social media platforms I use or have used in the past are:
- Classroom 2.0
- various MOOCs from Coursera and EdX
- Blogs (such as this one)
I tend to use these tools to
(a) gather links to resources that other educators deem worthy (instead of Googling them)
(b) connect with other people, in NZ and overseas, especially Computer Science educators
I use some more than others. For example, I’ve almost stopped using Classroom 2.0 altogether because I found that it was too American (no offence!) and I needed a thesaurus to understand the ‘Common Core’ eduspeak that many people use in their posts.
Key features of social media beneficial for teaching and learning
Social media platforms have common traits. They allow users the ability to easily share images and/or video as well as keeping track of people with similar interests through the use of friends (e.g. Facebook) or followers (e.g. Twitter). It’s the ability for users to share and connect with people from anywhere in the world that lifts social media websites and apps beyond their Web 2.0 origins.
Potential challenges for teachers when using social media in the classroom
I think that there are two obvious challenges for teachers when considering to use social media with students:
- Distractions – a student is probably going to use an existing social media account, rather than create a new one just for class, and this means that conversations that are not relevant to your class will be present in their feed (or at least easily accessible!)
- Cyberbullying – students need to be taught how to be “responsible online citizens” (Social Media for Kids) and to protect themselves against people / trolls whose purpose for being online is not for good. Looking at the minimum age requirements of the social media tool is also important when using social media with primary or secondary school students.
My preferred social media platform for PD and why
Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. (@gadgetgurl42)
- I like how it easily supports both synchronous and asynchronous conversations.
- I like how you can connect with educators so easily.
- I like how you can follow threads even if you don’t contribute to the conversation.
- I like how you can find resources that may not be available on a regular Google search (e.g. links to Google docs a teacher or school is sharing)
- I like how the ‘lists’ feature allows you to filter your feed into more manageable chunks.
- I like how ‘hashtags’ allow you to quickly look up thoughts on a topics without having to save this permanently.