In October, I posted some recommended reading that complemented one of my classes on gamification. I’ve since started writing chapter summaries (here is the last article) so people can “preview” some of the great books out there and hopefully end up reading them!
Below is this month’s chapter summary. Google Scholar features most of the chapter for free. For the full text, here’s a Springer Link, which is free with subscription, or you can purchase the chapter or book.
Chapter 9: “Like, Comment, Share: Collaboration and Civic Engagement Within Social Network Sites,” by Greenhow and Lee, in Emerging Technologies for the Classroom: A Learning Sciences Perspective.
Social media and social networking sites allow individuals and groups to collaborate and learn together. Social media has a different impact on the learning experience, compared to technology that is often utilized in the learning environment. Students often use technology in the classroom for independent study or for research purposes. Social media on the other hand supports research while also encouraging a learning process that is rich with peer to peer interaction. Teaching and learning practices benefit from the collective knowledge that social technology provides.
Social media practices can facilitate new forms of collaborative knowledge construction. It encourages civic engagement in broader communities of practice. And social media can encourage an environment of trust, where individuals share information about themselves and their interests. Establishing a level of trust within a social group can make the learning process more effective. And cultivating a professional network can lead to opportunities above and beyond the learning experience.
A social networking site (SNS) is a web-enabled service through which individuals can maintain existing ties and develop new social ties with people outside their network. Other examples of social media include media-sharing services like YouTube and Flickr, collaborative knowledge development through wikis, and creative works like blogs and microblogging.
There are opportunities to use social networking in both formal and informal learning settings – meaning social networking can be used regardless of whether learning objectives are determined for an experience. Cultural and technological trends have sharply increased the amount of interest in social media, and access to technology is increasing as well. Social network sites can bridge the gap between the formal learning environment of the classroom, and informal environments like afterschool programs or communities of practice. They can also help instructors better understand the interests and backgrounds of their students, making it easier for them to cater to the students as individuals.
Social media can facilitate learning experiences through debate, allowing students to compare their opinions against those of a broader community. It can also allow students more direct access to communities outside of their familiarity, such as people in other countries or industries. This access can provide students with context and a better understanding of how the information they are learning applies to the world as a whole.
Students can use social media sites they are familiar with outside of school – Twitter and Facebook for example – to discuss what they are learning and gather information. Using familiar social media tools may allow students a greater level of comfort during the learning process. Instructors can also use specialized applications, such as learning management systems, to provide a more structured environment. Instructors can use students’ activity feeds to monitor levels of engagement and adjust the curriculum accordingly.
The use of social media and social networking sites to facilitate learning aligns with the constructivism approach to learning design. Students, teachers, and other parties take a flexible role within the social media space, often acting as mentors and mentees within the same setting. All participants are encouraged to express interests and creativity, and collaborate to reach a collective goal.
Social media supports the exploration of realistic, complex problems because learning is taking place in the real world. Learners can provide feedback through multiple channels and post questions or comments whenever they feel the need. Research can be self driven and may incorporate multiple social media platforms if the learning environment allows it.
Using social media to facilitate a learning process comes with obstacles that educators should address in order to ensure the learning experience is successful. It’s important that social media be applied with intention and vision, if it is meant to facilitate specific learning objectives. Administrative vision and planning are critical.
Also critical is addressing online privacy and security concerns that relate to student usage. Students may need to be taught how to responsibly and ethically use social media platforms. The school culture must be accepting of collaboration and group activities in order for social media usage to be effective. The evaluative environment in particular should emphasize digital literacies and competencies that align with the use of social media.
Instructors may choose to overcome challenges by partnering with library media specialists who have a greater familiarity with technology integration and information technologies. It may also be beneficial to involve youth workers and other adults who can assist in extending instruction into the community. Instructors may need to persuade school administrators to change policies involving social media – or instructors may choose to have students only use technologies outside of school hours.
Instructors may find it useful to prove the effectiveness of social media by collecting data related to learner engagement and the effect on desired outcomes. Results can be shared with administrators and other parties in order to generate discussion about how a school’s policies and educational approaches should evolve to accommodate changes in technology.
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