Social Media for Teaching & Learning

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Sloan Consortium workshop, titled “Supporting and Engaging Students through Social Media,” as part of Belmont’s first group of Sloan-C Fellows. The following are my reflections and highlights from the week-long, online workshop.

Overview

As an institution of higher education committed to student-centered teaching, Belmont University faculty who wish to maximize their pedagogical effectiveness should seriously consider how they might utilize social media to engage and support students in the learning process. This Sloan Consortium workshop challenged participants to realize the potential for using social media to provide support, enhance engagement, and improve learning. Through a selection of online readings, examples and networking with colleagues at colleges and university across the U.S., participants had the opportunity to identify meaningful ways to engage.

Highlights

The week-long workshop provided a number of learning insights that may be relevant and applicable for other Belmont faculty colleagues. The following are some highlights (gleaned from the resources provided and other independent research), and I would be more than willing to discuss any of these in greater depth either one-on-one or in a small-group setting:

  • Our students—both traditional and nontraditional—tend to already be familiar with many of the tools and use them regularly in their personal (and even professional) communication habits.
  • To model learning as a boundary-spanning, life-long activity that is not confined by traditional academic structure (i.e., semesters, classrooms, syllabi, etc.), social media provides educators and learners with new opportunities to connect, collaborate and converse around meaningful subjects.
  • Michael Wesch, at Kansas State University, produced a digital ethnography about the Vision of Students Today in 2007. It was expanded and revised in 2011. Both YouTube videos should spur significant conversation about expectations and ways in which students can be engaged.
  • Social media was defined as “media that affords ongoing sharing and feedback within a decentralized digital environment.”
  • There is an ever-changing collection of social media tools from which to select and use for engaging one’s students. It is imperative to assess a potential tool’s effectiveness prior to adoption and to realize that the use of these tools should not supersede our teaching and learning objectives. Tektrek suggested criteria to assess a tool’s potential for academic engagement.
  • Online communities exist for educators who are seeking to expand their pedagogical toolbox by incorporating social media into their teaching and learning strategies. One excellent resource is the Social Media Club Education Connection.
  • Some educators may remain skeptical about the value of social media as a technological pedagogy. However, research is now being published to support the value of social media in learning. The following are a few resources that one may wish to review:

Andrew Churches’ Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy wiki

Rey Junco’s Social Media in Higher Education blog

Greg Heiberger & Ruth Harper’s Have You Facebooked Astin Lately? Using Technology to Increase Student Involvement book chapter

Pew Researh Center’s The Digital Revolution and Higher Education research findings

Nicole Ellison, Charles Steinfield & Cliff Lampe’s Connection Strategies: Social Capital Implications of Facebook-enabled Communication Practices article

  • The levels of comfort and competence with social media technologies vary greatly across disciplines and generations of faculty members.

Proposal for a SoMe Group at Belmont

To complete the workshop, participants created a plan to use social media appropriate for their professional context. My proposal was for the establishment of a Social Media (SoMe) Group for Teaching & Learning within the Teaching Center at Belmont University. Through regular face-to-face gatherings and the development of an online community, the SoMe Group of faculty participants could become an integral program to enhance Belmont’s academic excellence by supporting the faculty body and equipping them with modern and effectual teaching methods to promote rigorous, innovative and engaged students learning that extends beyond class meetings.

Head and Heart in the Clouds

Thursday, April 21, 2011, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of area high school business students about the role of social media in their futures. The seminar was hosted by Cleveland State Community College and titled “Your Future–It’s in the Clouds.” My presentation was titled “Get Your Head in the Clouds.”