I’m a Learning Technologist. Regular readers will know I have an interest in using, and understanding how we can use, Social Media and Social Networks with students and learning. It’s not just about helping students understand their ‘digital footprint’, or improving their digital literacy, or how their actions online can affect their employability. It is also about using the different tools and techniques for learning and Social Media and Social Networks are a valuable source of learning materials from many different cultures and backgrounds.
Which is why this book is of interest to me – ‘Using Social Media in the Classroom‘ by Megan Poore. Billed as a book that provides “an overview of different types of digital technologies” it is more important to me and how I work that it also covers more contextual and “constructive guidance on how to safely and intelligently use them as tools for learning”. All good stuff I hope you’ll agree.
This quote from Megan is key to the understanding of the benefits for communication, collaboration, participation and socialisation of, and in, education:
“One of the most exciting features of social media for education is precisely their socialness. They allow us to break out of the paradigm of the monolithic learner into the more intricate and complex world of constructivist, active, and situated pedagogies.” (p. 8)
Online networks like LinkedIn and Twitter and Google+ offer the ability to search for like-minded professionals and amateurs the world over and to communicate, collaborate, and connect with them on different levels. This book highlights the possibilities and advantages for these types of connections through:
- Collaboration and teamwork,
- Community and participation,
- Peer learning, and
- Diverse Practices.
With sections of the book centred around digital literacy, the digital ‘native’ debate, cyberbullying and netiquette, as well highlighting and understanding the risk of keeping safe online, the final section, however, is perhaps the most useful as it deals with less theoretical work and more practical “in-class considerations”, including:
- Public vs Private – Do you use a resource that is open so your students are making their voices known publicly, or do you aim for a controlled and private environment where that can be safe to voice themselves openly, but with the safety net of a closed system that only you and they can access?
- Assessment Archive – Do you need an archive of the student work (most Institutions are required to keep student submissions for a predetermined amount of time so, if you are using a third party network tool, do you have access to create an archive that will meet the issued guidelines)?
- Monitoring – Using most web-based systems will mean your students will encounter cookies that enable them to stay logged in and, possibly, ones that help the website monitor their journey around it and other websites. Are you aware of this, are your students, and do they know how to work with (or without) cookies?
- Help & Support – Are you prepared for an increase in help queries? If you use a non-recommended tool or system then it is likely that your IT Services will not be able to support you or your students, do be prepared for all manner of support queries. Even better is if they use the tool itself (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, etc.) to post the help query to you in the first place – the added benefit here is that, whilst doing this action, they may actually answer their question themselves.
- Registration – This is one I have wrestled with for a while – your own applications and tools on offer from the Institution may be limited but they are backed up, secure, safe, and the students are already pre-registered with their IT login. If you go outside this list of tools then each student has to register for themselves, and be made aware of the T&Cs and other policies in place on each social network (as do you, as you are asking them to sign up to a third party system in which you have no control and/or influence), and possible changes that may occur. Megan Poore recommends that you do not make it mandatory for students to sign up for these, in which case you need to made sure your plan has a back-up that will work equally as well.
- Identification – Do you use your real name or a nickname or a pseudonym? Do you use a real photo of yourself, a modified photo, or something completely different. How do you want your students to identify themselves? Do you want the students to continue to use the tool after they have completed your work? If so these things need to be considered.
- Parents – Depending on the age of your students you must consider engaging the parents in the decision on whether the students sign-up for these websites, and make them aware of potential pitfalls and dangers as well as benefits to their children’s learning. Megan correctly says “demonstrate that you have been diligent in your considerations and that you have thought things through carefully and you will gain their respect, support, and encouragement.”
A well presented and written book with plenty of scope and content for anyone who wants to start using Social Networks with students or further ideas for experienced users. Megan closes by saying that social media “rewards both courage and enterprise. Be intrepid get out there and try new and different things … but always within the limits of safety” … I know a few people who’d question this. especially when trying something new and innovative – push the limit, sometimes go over, but be aware of where the limit is, not matter which side you finish on.