Ever since sites like Friendster, Xanga, and Myspace first hit the web, they practically redefined social life and community.
Suddenly going to the bar after work with your colleagues doesn’t seem as appealing as spending time interacting with them online. Now there’s a social media for every purpose under the sun, from dating to film location to pets which by the way remain one of the most lucrative industries around.
When the words social media cross your mind, you probably immediately visualize posting either status update or photos. Because that specific world has been associated mainly with vanity. It’s the ‘me’ machine; a way for you to showcase what you like, what you eat, your favorite city spots, all of a sudden anybody who’s ever wanted to get their 15-minutes of fame can do so with just a click of a button and everybody who is in his or her shared network can either like it, dislike it, comment on it or repost it with their other extended network, it can even go viral meaning and so its range is far-reaching and limitless.
With all that in mind, it must be difficult to wrap your head around the possibility that perhaps social media could also be used as a learning tool. In what way exactly can it become educational? Here are some examples using some of today’s most well-known social media.
66% of all adults aged 16 years and above have a profile on at least one social networking site and Facebook has more than 1.86 Billion monthly active users, you can view that as an opportunity. Teacher can use this potential as a way to harness and monitor students’ habits and skills by creating a Facebook page where they can engage with one another, interact and build a sense of community. This allows for teachers to post important information that they’d like for their students to attain instantly because that is one of its advantages, social media is not bound by time constrictions therefore students can share and learn each other’s styles and preferences.
This encourages critical thinking and active knowledge construction as they ask questions, write comments, seek clarifications without having to wait till the next classroom day. Facebook pages themselves are designed in a specific way in which the administrator can determine who can join and what type of resources should be available there.
Nowadays, students are becoming more and more visual. Educators need to meet them where they are when textbooks fail to connect. Students are always out and about taking photos of their daily lives and posting them on instagram so why not assign a homework, on the subject of modern literature for example, where the students would have to instagram all kinds of photos relating to the topic at hand. This also encourages them to be as creative as they’d like, using whatever filters they feel would best capture the essence. They can use hashtag ‘#’ symbol so that their class peers can see the photos too, comment on them, vote for the ones they like and they can further discuss those photos on a slideshow the next day when they’re back in their classroom. When you apply a social media like instagram as a learning tool, you make learning fun. And when you make learning fun, the effect stays with the students much longer than if they simply have to memorize a bunch of sentences on a piece of paper, which is why online educational games like Poki, have become hugely popular.
Twitter doesn’t allow you to post anything more than 140 characters. But because of that, it trains the students to be concise and deliver a message that’s straight to the point. They can use hashtags “#” to engage in a trending discussion relating to a subject they’re currently learning. You can upload and post in real time. And another advantage is that it connects students with experts and professionals whose twitter account have been verified.
In the old days, one may have to look up a person’s contact via phone book or a mailing address and then correspondent in such manner to get an advice or two. But in this day and age, experts and professionals in various field of interests have made themselves available and accessible online through sites like twitter and LinkedIn.
So those are some of the examples of social media and the ways in which they can be used as students’ learning tools. You can choose Tumblr which is a form of blogging. You can use Pinterest which can actually be more than just a venue for sharing food recipes. But both educators and students must wisely choose which social media would work best for them. Because some of them may not be able to provide a way for sending messages to more than one user at a time. Some of them may not be visual content compatible. And let’s not forget the fact that social media can get distracting, there’s a lot of trending topics out there, you may end up finding yourself in a detour and the next thing you know, your assignment isn’t complete. Social media is unfortunately also easy targets for bots, fake accounts, and trolls. And so taking all of those into consideration is imperative before you move forward with using social media for educational purposes.