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1 Creating Educational Connections with Social Media Twitter and Diigo for research? Facebook for peer review? YouTube for studying media literacy? Social media has allowed for a level of interaction that has not been possible since most people abandoned living in rural villages. These tools have once again permitted daily, persistent and pervasive contact with one another, albeit, online. But is there a place for their use in the college classroom? Perhaps, if used effectively, social media can bridge the gap between the technologies that students use with proficiency outside of the classroom, and begin to connect them to teaching and learning inside the classroom. Once faculty have become proficient and successful with the student engagement tools available on a learning management system (LMS), many will seek alternative interaction spaces to enhance what they are able to do on a LMS. Social media is quickly becoming the way faculty are transforming their collaboration and interaction with students in f2f formats and/or online. Although many of these technologies were not specifically built for educational purposes, studies suggest that they can been instrumental to learning (Williams et.al, 2004; Redecker et.al, 2009). With the use of social media, educators can support and map student learning outcomes in mental, social and physical aspects as these technologies provide a platform for collective knowledge sharing and diversifying learning (Ivanova & Ivanova, 2010). Social media tools can allow students to share knowledge and experiences (sometimes in real time) that contribute to their understanding, analysis and reflection in the subject area. Let s clarify the term, though. The term social media is an umbrella term one that refers to any website that gives information to a user, but also interacts with them as well. In other words, information is shared, and communication is reciprocated. There are sub- categories based on utility, and can range from simple design and purpose, to more complex and robust. These sub- categories include: Social bookmarking Social news Social networking Social video and photo sharing Writing/Reading Blogs and Wikis For experienced instructors, the learning management system they use may become limiting by lacking a networking capacity and customization when students want to be able to find similar learning communities outside of the boundaries of their classroom (whether f2f or online). In addition, social media is user- centered, which automatically will increase and foster meaningful discussions and collective

2 intelligence than the typical discussion board on the LMS (which is created for and by the instructor in many cases). It is important to note, though, as Wu (2003) suggests, it remains the instructor s role to facilitate and moderate these collaborative environments when used in conjunction of a class. The use of social media has not gone without criticism as a cultural/technological issue (cyber- bullying, flaming, etc.), nor has it been without concern regarding its use in academia. The main contention, perhaps, is wrapped up in a larger context of the apathy, sometimes antagonism, held toward popular culture artifacts. Andrew Ross, in his influential book No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (1989) succinctly discusses how modern intellectuals tend to see themselves as possessing a cultural authority over mass culture, and that places like universities should be the place that produces and dispenses what mass culture needs/wants. As a result, when products come from outside academia, there remains a hesitancy from some, resistance from others, to outright dismissal, about their value and use inside the university. The concern is that the values of institution would be compromised, even lowered, if we included tools like social media- - how much should the institution adapt to its students, and how much should the student adapt to the institution? Interestingly enough, resistance to using social media in classrooms may even come from the students themselves, bearing the argument that what was created to be social, should remain social. Students currently use social media tools primarily for their entertainment and personal networking, and have laid distinct lines as to what (I) do/use for school, and what (I) do/use outside of school. Some also have concerns about privacy issues (both faculty and students alike) and would prefer their personal life to be just that personal. Finally, another notable problem is found in the issue of media literacy. While technology has clearly made information accessible and in abundance, educators have not quite caught up with teaching issues of copyright, reliability, and credibility that need to accompany any use of social media in the classroom. The immediacy, networking potential, and accessibility of social media, however, have had incredible impact socially, economically, and politically. What follows are some of the current social media tools and how they can potentially be used in the university classroom. Social Bookmarking Social bookmarking is a social media tool to tag a website and saving it for later. Instead of saving them to your web browser, you are saving them to the web. And, because your bookmarks are online, you can easily share them with others. There is great potential for social bookmarking to use in a classroom for research collaboration because it allows you to specifically target what you want to see.

3 Instead of going into a search engine, typing something in, and then searching for that needle in a haystack, you can quickly narrow down the items to what you are looking for. Because many social bookmarking sites display recently added lists and popular links, you can both stay current and see relevant information. Popular Social Bookmarking Websites Social News Social news websites focus on social bookmarking of news- related items such as politics, sports, technology, etc. These websites will often feature breaking headlines and bloggers discussing the current news items. Social news sites are different from standard social bookmarking sites by focusing on specific articles and blog posts rather than websites. Because of this, they can be a great source of news, and they also offer the ability to participate in the discussion by leaving comments on popular news items. These can be used effectively in classrooms as discussion triggers, research networks, and to discuss issues like media literacy. Popular Social News Websites Social Networking Social networking websites function like an online community of internet users. Depending on the website in question, many of these online community members share common interests in hobbies, religion, politics and alternative lifestyles. Once you are granted access to a social networking website you can begin to socialize. This socialization may include reading the profile pages of other members and possibly even contacting them.

4 Social networking tools can be used for peer review/collaboration, discussion forums (real time discussions, for example, can be created on Twitter using hashtags), sharing documents, research, and to discuss issues like media literacy, cultural studies, copyright, reliability/credibility, and to simply post announcements and events for your students. Popular Social Networking Websites Social Video and Photo Sharing Social video and photo sharing websites work as a combination of things. They serve as online storage spaces, with the ability to tag and organize, as well as publish and share to a larger community. Other users might peer review, and some websites offer the ability to post videos and photos to other social media tools as well. Social video and photo sharing websites can be used to trigger discussions, inspire writing and creativity, create presentations, find videos/photos for classroom use because they are creative commons licensed, promote events, create digital portfolios, serve as a repository for assignments that used multimedia, and simply be another way for students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept or theory by creating or finding visual representations. Popular Social Video and Photo Sharing Websites

5 Writing/Reading Blogs and Wikis Faculty and students who use blogs and wikis spend significant time pushing their own thinking and having their thinking pushed by others. They respond to comments and link to others, connecting to and creating interesting ideas. Some develop curriculum and instructional materials together. Others review resources and debate the merits of the individual tools of teaching. Philosophical conversations about what works in schools are common as teachers talk about everything from homework and grading practices to institutional policies that affect teaching and learning. Blogs, in particular, can also be useful resources for information and research. Besides the political/social/economic blogs published nationally (The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Slate), user- created blogs can provide interesting links to research. Tumblr., for example, has blogs called 18 th Century History and Geology Rocks that connect readers to scholarship, current news, and various other resources for the history and geology disciplines respectively. For the classroom, blogs and wikis can be used for discussion forums, collaborative research, peer review, journaling, collaborative writing, and project management. A class blog and wiki can also be created to organize resources and improve class collaboration and interaction. Popular Blog Websites Blogger (www.blogger.com): The main advantage of Blogger is that it's a free Google product. Google users need only one username and password to sign in for all of their Google services, which makes it as close as you can get to one- stop shopping for digital tools. Tumblr. (www.tumblr.com): Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors to your theme's HTML. Edublogs (www.edublogs.org): Edublogs is one of the only free blogging services that is completely dedicated to educators. The advantage of creating your own

6 digital home with Edublogs is that you'll be instantly connected to a community of like- minded writers who might just become your readers. Popular Wiki Websites PBWorks (http://pbworks.com): This is quickly becoming one of the most popular wiki services for educators because it's just plain easy to use. Wikispaces (www.wikispaces.com): This is one of the first wiki services that educators embraced. As a result, there are literally thousands of Wikispaces that you can look to for samples of what's possible. Wet Paint (www.wikisineducation.wetpaint.com): This is one of the newest wiki services available to educators, but it's also one of the most intriguing. With an emphasis on tools for collaboration and professional templates, Wet Paint wikis look good. Social Media is changing the delivery of information, news, and potentially education, preparing us for a future driven by peer production and networked learning. It is gaining momentum in higher education for users to broaden their experiences through learning communities. All an instructor needs to get started is a willingness to explore and a sense of the kinds of tools that can enhance the instructional design of a class. Resources Ivanova M., Ivanova T. (2010). Involving students in managing their own learning, elearning Papers, N 21, September, ISSN Ross, A. (1998). No Respect: Intellectuals and popular culture. New York: Routledge. Redecker, C., Bacigalupo, K., Ferrari A. & Punie, Y. (2009). Learning 2.0: The Impact of Web 2.0 Innovations on Education and Training in Europe, Report of Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, European Commission, retrieved December 2, 2010 from Williams, J. & Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20 (2), , retrieved December 2, 2010 from

7 Wu, A. (2003). Supporting electronic discourse: principles of design from a social constructivist perspective. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 14, 2,

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