Reflection on Social Media in Education

Posted on November 2, 2012


Journal #4: Social Media in Education
Vanessa Crawford


            Facebook. Twitter. Wikis. Blogs. All of these have become commonplace in our social realm, but what about in our academic realm? Many institutions are catching onto the educational value that these social media forms have and are beginning to integrate them into the classroom. To keep that competitive edge, we’re forced to showcase what makes us special/unique/cutting-edge and entice students to come to our school over the others. Because much of the student body is made up of Gen Y’ers, we have to look at what their needs are.


            Born in 1986, I am the perfect example of a Gen-Y’er; tech savvy, inpatient, need constant accolades, often checking my phone or tablet, and thrive on new discoveries.  I AM today’s student. Recognizing this, I have to ask myself, ‘what would I expect from a course?’ I’d want activities, targets, clear outlines of expectations, opportunities to demonstrate my understanding, and progressive forms of evaluation. All the items in my list can be achieved with social media and other technology-based tools. So how do we sift past the glitz and keep our lessons substantial and high quality? I believe this is where the challenge lies. I don’t think we can truly ever give up our traditional methodology of course delivery, but I do think updating our media literacy is key to knowing when/how to effectively apply technology in our schools. 


            Although I may not be completely convinced of the hyped value of social media as a learning tool, I can see that schools don’t have much of a choice if we want to stay current. The face of the student has transformed greatly over the past 30+ years, and yet our teaching style has remained mostly unchanged; assign textbook readings, come to class to hear someone talk at the front of the room, study the material, complete a writing assignment, and finally do an exam at the end of term. This time-tested formula may be the conventional way to deliver material, however, studies show that it may not be effective. The highest level of learning comes from emulating behaviors, performing skill-based tasks, and adapting to unpredicted situations. The formula does not leave much room for this kind of heightened cognition. Perhaps by incorporating more technology-based activities, we can ask students to reach for those lofty concepts.           


            With so many options for incorporating social media into the classroom, educators can improve learner interactivity and engagement.  Although forms such as Facebook and Twitter are perhaps overused, I think their purpose will take new direction in the very near future. Some examples I came across were communications between different programs or schools through Twitter, file sharing with Google Docs, and mico-researching competitions using academic search engines.

            Seth Priebatsch’s discussion on the “Game Layer” really gripped me and got me wondering how the existing social media forms will eventually morph and be used in education. It also got me thinking of how I can incorporate it into my own practice. I’m in the process of creating a new course starting in January of 2012 and the plan is to incorporate social media to create a competition amongst my students. They will be asked to contribute to the ‘Tips and Tricks” blog; for every quality tip they picked up and post, their group will receive a star. The group with the most stars at the end of term will be heralded as the titled winner and claim a modest prize. I’d love to work in conjunction with the other two x-ray schools in BC to create a ‘super blog’ of sorts. The whole point of social media is to make and sustain connections between people; so long as we don’t lose sight of that, I don’t think we can go wrong. 

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