Click it -> Learn it -> Share it: Social Media’s Role in Education

Can YouTube video clips improve the lessons you teach? Will encouraging students to use Twitter reap academic benefits? Does blogging provide an effective means for instructors to connect with their class?

SocialClassroomIn short, yes, all of the above are possible.

Before continuing, let’s define “social media”, that often-used term. Whereas media refers to a means of communication (newspaper, television, or radio), social media takes those channels one step further, allowing people to interact with the presented content and with each other. The ability to have a two-way conversation is what sets it apart from traditional media.

Though the expression is beginning to feel stale, the opportunities social media provides for communication and learning are still fresh for educators across the globe. It has already taken marketing strategies by storm, giving companies a way to generate widespread excitement for their products and quickly respond to customer comments and complaints. It has greatly altered the way people meet and share important announcements. Now we are in the midst of its assimilation into education. The 2014 Horizon Report, an annual study on educational technology conducted by the New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), registers social media as a rapidly growing trend expected to make significant changes to education within the next two years.

Macomb Community College has a presence on social media. Liking the College’s Facebook page, following its Twitter account, or adding it to a circle on Google+ will give you and your students instantaneous updates on campus events and educational offerings. But what can you, as an instructor, do to most effectively use these tools? Why should you begin in the first place? We’ve spoken with two instructors who actively use social media as supplements in their classes; political science professor Brooke Allen and web programming professor Jackie Wanner. Here’s how they’ve incorporated social media into their classrooms.

1)      To Connect and Communicate – Be more accessible to your students and relate your classroom lessons to current events and news stories. You can passively offer this information as a resource or you can actively engage your class in discussions.

  1. Professor Brooke Allen utilizes Twitter to share class updates and articles relevant to the lessons she teaches. Recently, her students have begun to follow and ask questions through a direct message on Twitter. Those without accounts can still follow her updates on ANGEL, where she embedded a live stream of her Twitter feed. Sometimes she will even lead her class into a discussion based on one of her recent tweets.
  2. Professor Jackie Wanner posts relevant news and articles on Twitter and LinkedIn, and organizes them through a web service called “Delicious”. Delicious gives Professor Wanner the ability to organize relevant links through hashtags, so her students can easily scroll through the resources she has found over the years, categorized by course code and other keywords. She also updates her blog on a monthly basis with important college and industry news related to information technology.

2)      To Coach and Create – Find resources through social media that will supplement your teaching. If they don’t exist yet, you have the opportunity to share your expertise with the world by publishing your own. We’ve even touched on this idea before in a guest blog post by math professor Lori Chapman who uploaded video recordings of her lectures on YouTube to benefit one student, and ended up engaging even more of her class.

  1. Professor Allen assigns video projects to her students where they teach viewers about a concept they learned in class. These videos are uploaded to YouTube, where they are open to the public and can be used to teach future classes. Professor Allen does just that, using the most effective videos her students uploaded as supplements to her lectures.
  2. Professor Wanner uses informational videos to supplement her lessons. Sometimes she presents a video she found on YouTube that effectively elaborates on one of her lessons; other times, when she can’t find a video, she creates her own and hosts it on YouTube. This particular social media channel is appealing because it is easily accessible for students so they can continue review lessons and concepts after class is dismissed.

Both instructors find social media to be a positive use of their time. Students have praised Professor Wanner in evaluations for staying so connected with them outside of the classroom, and Professor Wanner loves the opportunity provided by social media to offer more pertinent information to her students. Professor Allen finds that her students work even harder when creating video content that will be uploaded on YouTube than they would for an assignment that only she would see.

For ideas on how you can join in on the social party, you can read this article that lists twelve ways teachers are currently using social media (my personal favorite is #7, where a student won an NCWIT award for the Twitter account she created), or this article that shares another seven tips for how teachers can use social media.

We encourage you to join the conversation and share your stories and experiences with social media in the comment section below.

Leave a Reply