Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Social Media in the Classroom

Social media   can serve as a powerful tool to improve communication and collaboration while still ensuring proper boundaries of privacy between teacher and student. A recent post via Mashable Social Media suggests instructors find out what social media platforms your students use most and integrate them into your course.  Dan Klamm, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Syracuse University Career Services, says, “Social media is a way to enhance student learning and grow discussions.”

Facebook:  Group Pages
One example of using social media in the classroom would be to establish a class page or private group. This can be a great tool for group discussions or idea exchanges. For example, in one of my classes, my professor, Dr. Sarah Maben, established a private group page on Facebook. Students use this page to post ideas and other content related to our class objectives. Maben says, “Students can exchange real-world examples of what they are learning in class and from readings.” It’s a great way for students to comment on the different ideas that are posted.
"As instructor, using Facebook helps provide examples that mean something to my students. I can find examples, but the ones they find are often better and more interesting to them. The searching for items to post on our shared space also keeps class materials in students' minds for longer than just our face-to-face meeting,” says Maben.

Twitter:  Discussion Tweets
In another class, my professor utilized Twitter for a class assignment. Many students had not used Twitter, so this assignment gave them the opportunity to learn how to use the social media platform. Students exchanged messages, known as Tweets, about class discussions or other class information by using a common hashtag (#). A hashtag (#) is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. The image below is an example of a Tweet using a hashtag.

Tweets are categorized by the hashtag keywords or topics, which allows Twitter users to easily search by the hashtag to see all relevant Tweets. This feature can be very beneficial in tracking classroom related Tweets.

Google:  Docs for Collaboration
Another social media tool that can be used is Google Docs. Google Docs is a group of products, such as word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations that allows multiple users to create and edit the documents. This suite of products can serve as very useful tools in the classroom.  For example, in one of my classes, we used Google Docs to create a research paper. Members of the group were able to contribute on an individual basis, but also to collaboratively edit the project. The document feature also allows users to add comments and track all changes made. This helps students communicate about the tasks assigned and also teaches them how to collaborate in the virtual world.
As Klamm says, “By being mindful of your students’ comfort levels, encouraging group discussion on official class pages and being clear about your boundaries, you will create lively and extremely useful communication channels for your students.”

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