Saturday, September 22, 2012

Working Smarter: What Social Media Means for Learning

By Guest Writer, Karen Falgore

Social media promises an evolution in improving learning. The first wave of technology that affected education was computer-based learning in the 80s. The second wave was Internet-based learning in the 90s. Now the third wave in the 21st century is learning through social media.

Enhancing, Not Replacing Previous Learning Technologies Social media learning does not dispense with the benefits of computer-based learning and Internet-based learning, which are still in effect, but offers new learning benefits like the ability to share experiences and resources, as well as collaborate on projects. In other words, this new form of learning should be considered inclusionary rather than exclusionary.

Reinforcing Social Learning While self-paced learning is focused on comprehending content on a computer, social learning is focused on discussing the meaning of content through collaboration with others. In fact, many learning psychologists now believe that one of the most natural ways of learning anything is through social learning. For example, children in a family learn language much more easily. Similarly, physicists in a seminar grasp the subtleties of Quantum Mechanics much more easily through social learning. Social media learning is a technological extension of social learning, making it possible to learn with others regardless of distance.

The Best Technologies for Social Media Learning It's a myth to assume that there are some preferred social media platforms that outperform other platforms. Since there is a variety of social media technology available, the best ones are those most appropriate for the particular learning experience. Depending on the subject being studied, sharing and collaboration can take many forms like blogging, forums, file sharing, wikis, and social bookmarking. Generally speaking, a suite of social media tools allows for a broader range of learning options.

Public and Private Social Media Learning One concern about social media learning is that it breaches privacy concerns. A public platform like Facebook, for example, may work fairly well for general subjects, but a highly specialized organization doing cutting-edge research may prefer to use an intranet for collaboration. In this sense, social media learning is adaptable. It can work equally well using an Intranet or Internet infrastructure.

Popular Uses of Social Media Today social media learning is being widely used by students around the world. It is an easy way for teachers and students to discuss educational topics outside the classroom. Communication can be done through chat rooms, Skype, instant message software, and on Facebook walls and Twitter tweets. It can also be done through blog posts, forum discussions, and, of course, e-mail. Although innovative teachers began using Facebook for their classrooms, many parents began to populate Facebook; consequently, many teenagers are now beginning to use platforms like Tumblr to collaborate on social learning projects.

According to a Nielsen report, Tumblr ranks third in popularity after Facebook and Twitter.

There are innumerable ways people can communicate effectively through the internet. Often, whole lectures are delivered via video and uploaded to websites. Khan Academy and Allison, for example, are websites devoted to teaching specific courses and skill sets. Perhaps, YouTube may be considered the biggest website for social media learning. Besides frivolous videos, many serious topics are also discussed here through videos and reaction videos as well as through comments. A person can learn any number of highly specialized topics from world history to string theory and from how to do algebra to how to improve English grammar.

As awareness grows in the public school system about the ramifications of technology, more teachers are beginning to use social media in the classroom. One popular use has been intercultural exchanges where students from one country dialogue with students from another country on a topic of mutual interest.

While social media sites are not replacing classrooms just yet, they certainly add a new level of depth to anything learned in a classroom setting and continue a classroom discussion beyond school hours.

About the Author: Karen Falgore is an Online Ambassador for Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world.  A native of Virginia, Karen revels in the state’s history and spends time exploring its many national and state parks.  For more information about Liberty Online please click here.     

Karen has been sent a complimentary copy of my "Guide to Letter Formatting and Writing" in appreciation of her post.


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