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Using Social Media

Socialmedia1This area of the website introduces Social Media and provides a brief overview of ways you might use it in your teaching, considerations you need to think about when using it as well as links to other types of social media you may be interested in using.

What is Social Media?

A set of web and mobile services that allow groups and individuals to generate content and engage in peer-to-peer conversations and exchange of that content online. The tools include those that focus on:

Communication like Social Networks (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+) or  Blogs (e.g. WordPress or Blogspot)

Collaboration  like Conferencing (e.g. Skype, Adobe Connect) or Social documents (e.g. Dropbox, Google docs, MediaWiki)

Multimedia like Video sharing (e.g.YouTube, Vimeo), Presentation sharing (e.g. Slideshare) or Photograph sharing (e.g. Flickr)

Characteristics common to all social media  include: openness, participation, connectedness, community. The advent of Social media has been described as ‘the liberation of content from its means of distribution’.

Why use Social Media?

If you would like your students  to engage with authentic materials from the real world or perhaps share ideas and extend their knowledge networks to authentic interactions with communities outside the institution then social media tools might be a solution to your teaching needs.

With careful consideration of what your desired outcomes are for a particular activity, smart planning of tasks and an awareness of the cultural, legal and ethical dimensions of engaging with social media (see below), you can develop a wide variety of engaging  learning experiences. In all likelihood some of your students will already know the tools you would like to use as they are freely available and widely used around the web for educational use.

Activities designed with tools like YouTube and Flickr encourage students to move from being passive consumers of information to producers of a variety of digital artefacts. Using a Facebook group to encourage debate and discussion about critical issues in your course or more widely?The intuitive design of many tools means both you and your students don’t require a lot of time to master them.

One of the most powerful features of social media is the fact that it is ‘social’. This means that sharing resources, ideas and networks is all part of the community building process.

Key benefits

  • Can really engage students (they are familiar with many of the tools and in many cases are comfortable using them)
  • Well designed activities can encourage classroom participation beyond the face-to-face contact
  • Encourages collaboration (e.g. commenting on resources, links or blog posts, editing wikis)
  • Flexibility of access from strictly private to completely open
  • Enables communities to be built quickly both inside and outside the institution encouraging a more collegial atmosphere (e.g. with students pre-induction or PhD students)
  • Can provide you with timely feedback
  • Can assist students with developing employability skills (e.g. writing styles for different genres)
  • Augments other learning activities in a blended learning course (i.e. face-to-face and online)

If you would like your students  to engage with authentic materials from the real world or perhaps share ideas and extend their knowledge networks to authentic interactions with communities outside the institution then social media tools might be a solution to your teaching needs.

With careful consideration of what your desired outcomes are for a particular activity, smart planning of tasks and an awareness of the cultural, legal and ethical dimensions of engaging with social media (see below), you can develop a wide variety of engaging  learning experiences. In all likelihood some of your students will already know the tools you would like to use as they are freely available and widely used around the web for educational use.

Activities designed with tools like YouTube and Flickr encourage students to move from being passive consumers of information to producers of a variety of digital artefacts. Using a Facebook group to encourage debate and discussion about critical issues in your course or more widely?The intuitive design of many tools means both you and your students don’t require a lot of time to master them.

One of the most powerful features of social media is the fact that it is ‘social’. This means that sharing resources, ideas and networks is all part of the community building process.

Key issues

  • Should only be used when there are clear learning objectives
  • The distinction between what is made public and what stays private needs to be established prior to going live
  • Need to establish what is confidential and what is not when communicating with students
  • Does the time invested by students warrant work in social media channels being assessed?
  • Seamless integration into existing technical infrastructure
  • Can your students’ work be backed-up? Is the software reputable?
  • Need to clarify the policies of the service being used in terms of copyright, plagiarism and appropriate use.
  • Delicate balance between maximising the potential of the tools without invading personal space

Is it Ok to use?

There is no reason per se not to take advantage of the technologies that the rest of the world is using for communications.  They move and develop much more quickly than organizationally provided systems typically can, and often do completely different things, sometimes with a potentially worldwide audience.  A number of Academics at Queen Mary are publicly blogging and tweeting about their research & teaching and practitioners around the campus are engaging with Facebook, Twitter, Wikis and other social media.

Classroom practice

An Engineering lecturer sets up a Facebook group for the school where incoming students can meet each other prior to induction. Student mentors are appointed from the second and third year cohorts to manage the group during the summer holidays. Information like what to expect on arrival, initial reading lists and expectations of study are discussed and questions, fears and concerns dealt with in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Participation in the group resulted in less problematic enrolment period, better retention and happier students.

A Law lecturer films short, entertaining videos of himself talking about concepts in Law.  He starts a YouTube channel and his students access it for revision and reinforcing key concepts. He notices that students from around the world are also watching them and are even getting in touch to ask about aspects of the course.  This kind of innovation could be built on.  Next, the School of Law might start a channel where they and others within the school can all contribute content, and suddenly you have a rich resource available to the world from QM.

A Physics lecturer opens an account on Twitter and lets their first-year class know of a #hashtag (referencing keyword) for use throughout the year for use during lectures. Students are encouraged to actively engage with the ‘live backchannel’ during  lectures to post question, comments and discussion. The lecturer projects the Twitter feed at key points during the lecture to monitor the discussion and answer questions and/or make comments. Students frequently continue to provide thoughts and insights after the formal teaching has finished where the tag is used for general coursework discussion.

An English lecturer sets up a series of individual student blogs for use in the module. An assessment rubric is drawn up which contains 6 possible ways to reflect on the texts being read that week in the form of a blog post. Students choose a different task each week and write a reflection based on it. Blogs can be shared with the group or just the tutor.  The tutor monitors but only feeds back every few posts. This blogging component of the course constitutes 15% of the final assessment.

A Geography lecturer creates a class account on the photo sharing site Flickr. When his students go on a field trip to the South Coast they are asked to take pictures of unidentifiable rock formations on their mobile phones then upload and tag them within the site. These photos are displayed in the seminar the week after where they form the basis of the discussion.

Practical considerations

  • Is the tool easy for myself and my students to use? Do the benefits outweigh the time it will take to set up?
  • Is there an internal service that offers the same functionality? (Contact the E-Learning Unit)
  • Students need to be aware of the risks of posting information online.  Queen Mary has produced guidelines on using social media (see links below)
  • Be an equal with your students in the social media environment. Don’t try and dominate
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. Make sure that you articulate your rationale with your students they may offer advice as well!
  • Will the site outlive your course – or should you close it down? Are their ways of saving/ backing up the data stored there?
  • Will students use their own personal profiles or set up an alternate profile?
  • Is the website/software you can use accessible to students with Special Educational Needs? – Web2access is a great place to check.
  • What exactly is acceptable and what isn’t when using these tools for more formal leaning?
    Do my students understand what constitutes  abuse or bullying and what the consequences are if they do it in these environments?
  • It is a good idea to get students to sign up to a set of guidelines for use e.g. Not allowing them to friend anyone outside the classroom on facebook or not posting inappropriate content etc.
  • What can or can’t be posted from a copyright perspective.

Learn more

More about using Social Media in your teaching:

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