Category Archives: gen info

What is this ‘social media’ that you speak of?

Did you see the Huffington Post article this week on social media in teaching and learning (Oct 21, 2013)? Not so much an article, but more of an infographic.

The graphic is a summary of survey data from Pearson which claims that 70% of faculty use social media in their personal lives and 41% use it in the classroom.

The breakdown of tool usage in this report show blogs and wikis as the most commonly used social media tools. I think it is interesting to note that the essential function of blogs and wikis is document creation and distribution. The features to author content in blogs and wikis are very similar to creating documents in Microsoft Word or Google Docs (low barrier to entry); the process is very similar to traditional “teaching and learning” methodology (teacher creates, students intake); and the collaboration uses easily mirror standard write/share/discuss frameworks designed to foster critical analysis and constructive peer to peer interactions. In others words: nothing new to see here. This is less social and more web 2.0.

Can we say that wiki and blog use for teaching and learning is the same as social media use for teaching and learning? I don’t think so. It mirrors or replicates traditional methods of teaching using read/write web technology. I think social media tools differ because they are more user centered than content centered and require user participation versus user consumption.

The second most popular “social” tool used is podcasts. Very much a lecture capture tool and here again, mirroring traditional approaches (teachers create, students intake).

Blogs and wikis, and according to this article, podcasts, are considered social media tools. I disagree and consider them content authoring tools. Real social media tools like Twitter, Google Plus and even Vine, empower users to easily share and discover new resources, share and discover new ideas, and participate in conversation and debate. Using blogs and wikis (and podcasts) doesn’t change teaching and learning; it is replicating old methods to achieve the same goals. The real revolution with social media – openness in education and extended access through networking – is not permeating higher education. I don’t know if it will; I don’t know if it should.

I would love to embed the infographic here, but there was no SHARE button for embedding it in my blog or wiki.

The final section of the infographic summarizes privacy concerns. The report shows that 91% of faculty are concerned about student exposure to ideas from people outside the formal class. Faculty do not want to allow outsiders in; this is not at all surprising. But this is this primary function of social media – to expand network through sharing ideas and resources, to engage others in conversation, to welcome discourse. Resistance for use of social media because faculty feel people outside the class should not be able to participate is the digital equivalent of the college gates – keep students in, keep others out. So it is not surprising that there is little social media use in classrooms. It doesn’t fit the traditional model.

And there was no SHARE button to quickly link to it on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. 

I often wonder why we’re still looking at social media use in higher education as new and innovative. I wonder what the saturation point will be, when we accept it as the new norm (like we once did with PowerPoint and LCD projectors in the classroom when slide carousels were shoved into the storage closet). Blogs and wikis as authoring tools and social media as communication tools are part of a now standard suite of resources faculty can use to support teaching and learning.

It was an antisocial social media report!

*but you can download the PDF from the Pearson website and read it by yourself.