Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’




Teaching With Facebook

posted: September 27, 2011 by

image by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

Social Media and Course Cohesion

This semester I have a large class with online and offline sections. How to bring them together, so that the e-students would feel connected, not isolated online? Feeling out of the proverbial loop is one of the most oft-cited challenges for distance learners. Traditionally, a face-to-face classroom, “requires a disciplined commitment from the students to actually participate in the learning activities and reach out to others in the class,” observes Cory Stokes, director of the Technology Assisted Curriculum Center, in charge of testing for online courses. In an online course, the onus is on the student to be self-disciplined enough to engage in self-study, often without the benefit of a class community to drive engagement and interest.

Research shows that there is a correlation between social presence and student success. When students feel connected to a community of inquiry they are more enthusiastic, motivated, and they perform better. If that engagement, communication, and awareness happens continuously and in real-time, as it does in a face-to-face classroom — all the better.

So I decided to take my teaching to the one place where students naturally connect everyday, all day: social networks. First I socialized the learning management system (we use Moodle) by creating discussion boards for on-demand threaded conversations in a secure, gated community. Then I looked to Twitter and Facebook as more public and familiar places for members of my “bricks” and “clicks” course sections to sync.

Teaching on Facebook and Twitter isn’t going to be an option that makes sense for every instructor, but here is why it is working wonders to create a sense of social presence in my class:

P2P Effects. On the Facebook wall, students do peer-to-peer mentoring, troubleshooting, and Q&A at every hour of the day and night. I check into the course social channels several times a day, and yet often by the time I see the Facebook wall or Twitter hashtagged conversation, issues and solutions are already being shared without input from the prof. Not only is this a great example of generous community spirit and peer support, but it’s also self-directed learning on-demand. Since research shows that many students strongly prefer to learn from their peers, this is a good opportunity to enable positive peer effects. As a bonus, “students become partners in blended learning” to borrow an insight from a study at The University of Wolverhampton (<– link opens PDF).

Crowdsourced Curriculum. In the threaded discussions and on the wall, students post links to this week’s lecture topic — before and after the in-class lesson or online-webinar schedule. Put differently, my students scoop my lecture topics and Facebook them!  They scoop my case studies and newsworthy tie-ins and tweet them! Students are plugged into the news and they have high-traffic platforms on which to share the most intriguing stories. There’s nothing that delights me more than this crowdsourcing effect, as students work together to make the material relevant for each other (and thus easier to learn). “If Generation Y likes to do one thing, it’s to share cool, creative, funny and quirky things with their friends,” concluded a recent survey (<– link opens PDF) of millennials’ social media consumption habits by L2ThinkTank.

Network Effects. Sharing course information on Facebook and Twitter means that it is automatically distributed not just to registered students, but to students’ entire social graph. A course tweet is sent to all followers, a Facebook post to the course page is also on one’s personal Facebook profile. This distribution of status updates means that course-related conversations (online and presumably off) happen far beyond the webinar chat rooms and lecture halls. Unlike the formal learning management system, which keeps discussion posts behind a wall (what happens on Moodle stays on Moodle, so to speak), the network effects model of social media amplifies students voices across their personal networks. I’ve found this online word of mouth virtually guarantees that enthusiasm for the course (and enrollment)  remains high year after year. But more importantly, it allows students to demonstrate their membership in, and contributions to, a learning community—in a very public, and sometimes even positively viral way.

These three ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, as there are hundreds of ideas for teaching with Facebook. Of course, not all students use these social platforms. Having a course Facebook page instead of a course Facebook group enables non-Facebookers to read all posted content, and likewise, Twitter is also accessible without a site membership.

Although there is a lively debate ongoing about using popular social networking as teaching tools, my experience encourages me to agree with studies that show social networking enhances student performance and enriches learning experiences both inside the online or offline classrooms and elsewhere on campus.

There are many other tools and techniques beyond Facebook and Twitter for using social media to create social presence, including this roundup. However if your goal, like mine, is to meet students where they are, and leverage their familiarity with social communication for educational purposes, then Facebook,  Twitter, and YouTube are the obvious channels of choice.

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Categories: Social Media
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Teachers and Digital Dirt

posted: January 10, 2011 by

image by OnTask“If you are a great teacher in the classroom, then you have a drink at a local bar, yes, that’s your own time and it’s your private life. But if someone sees pictures of it or reads about it online…”~ Dale Slagle, superintendent of schools at Frontenac, Kansas.

Cheers to the social web and being an educator without an “off switch.” No broadcasting blackout dates for teachers it seems, instead we are the quintessential “always-on” types, posting our “digital dirt” (for example, having a drink?!) 24/7 online for friends, family, parents, administrators and students.

“Teachers are role models…public image is important,” rightly observes Slagle. But should educators be allowed some privacy on Facebook?

Privacy and Lifecasting

Wait, there’s no privacy on Facebook! There are profile privacy settings which are notoriously complicated (as one teacher who lost her job found out the hard way). So much so that today the safest route is probably to assume that data posted on social networks (or emailed, or transmitted online in any way) is never secure, never deleteable, and certainly not private.

And as we all know, tagged photos and videos also grow legs. Always be vigilant, Googling, deleting, and untagging self-representations of anything that would not be appropriate in an interview setting, advises David Hogard, assistant director of career services at Pittsburg Kansas State University. His comments are directed to students and faculty.

Google Thyself is certainly great advice, even though it’s not always possible to get information removed from the web. But wouldn’t it be safer to avoid participating in Facebook, Twitter, and the like, altogether? Seems logical when any hint teachers might have a life outside the classroom (such as visiting a local bar) can potentially derail a career trajectory. But in fact not making a digital impression can also negatively impact your professional development. No one trusts a blank slate, as they say.

Digital Whitewashing vs. Digital Literacy

Instead of mass deletions in an ill-fated attempt to erase yourself from the web, educators could model for students (and peers) how to craft a well-rounded, work-life balanced e-persona online. Having some evidence of your hobbies and habits (booklists, video and music playlists, Facebook page “likes”), and social proof indicating your cultural, community, and professional connectivity (blogrolls, Twitter listings, Facebook group memberships, sports info and event photos), can be an advantage in light of “HR 2.0″ and all kinds of social recruiting. Consider that “you’re always sort of job searching, in a way,” said Hogard. Fair enough. Even for the tenured it’s worth considering how having a rich and relevant online persona enables network building, collaboration, and communication too.

While no one would argue against removing truly compromising/generally unflattering photos and other online data, totally whitewashing your e-presence as an educator can send the message that you don’t “get” the social web, and are lacking in digital fluency. I’d point to the ever-growing heap of research about socialnomics, social proof, the rise of the trust economy, and the importance of personal brand audits to back up that statement.

However the article I quoted above citing Hogard and Slagle indicates that it may be the administrators who are most likely to adopt an über-conservative approach (delete everything! post nothing!) to the social web. Instead, they should be demonstrating thought leadership on this issue and encouraging responsible, creative, and professional lifecasting. Is it time to organize/lobby for a workshop on your campus about professionalizing your digital footprint? If you’ve already had one and if any of the materials are online please consider sharing them in the comments. Thank you.

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Categories: Higher Education, K12, Social Media
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Wild and Wonderful Coordinations

posted: July 13, 2010 by

image by cindiann“Every day, thousands of people are forced to sit through dull, flat PowerPoint presentations,” observes Chuck Dietrich on Mashable. This is the case, even though “boring your audience is hardly the goal.”  What’s the solution? Socialize your presentations, not as a last-minute add-on, but at inception and by design. Dietrich suggests that video and image-rich slides are not enough—today the most compelling presentations are designed social.

Teachers can surely benefit from this advice, though it’s addressed to a business readership. But first, why would any teacher want to make their lecture more social than it already is, considering that many of us are already competing for attention from the wired generation of students who may already be chatting, Facebooking, and SMSing in class?

Because social media can herd cats, Dietrich argues. Well, no actually he didn’t suggest any such thing, but in essence the result is the same. Dietrich rightly points out that presentations designed to take advantage of social media communication trends are more likely to be perceived as compelling and relevant. Socialize your teaching and students will plug in to your content and community channels more fully, because it will feel like an experience customized for their learning styles and communication preferences.

Okay so how exactly can we socialize our speeches and presentations? It’s important to “seed innovation” by installing the right scaffolding to support student’s use of social technologies. On Dietrich’s list: live polling (using clickers or SMS) will add interactivity and interest.  Also on the list: add “short, tweetable sound bites to your slides” to enable participants to “quickly absorb and send out on their social networks.” Will profs consider this challenge? Maybe the most microbloggy among us. Others will repeat the now-classic Twitter backlash logic, arguing that nothing of value can be communicated in 140 characters—in spite of an avalanche of evidence to the contrary.

How about using social media to increase anticipation for the lecture, and perhaps increase attendance? Dietrich thinks this is both possible and important, because “reaching out to your audience using social media channels to get them excited about your talk” will “allow attendees to start discussions even before the event takes place.” Is this far-fetched for higher ed? In my experience, far from it. Here’s why:

I launched a Facebook page and Twitter hashtag for a course on mass communications, and for the first few weeks they were somewhat of a novelty. Then something amazing happened. Students began to tweet and facebook material for the UPCOMING week’s lecture, five or more days IN ADVANCE. Organic crowdsourcing of case studies, whitepapers, news articles, and statistics happened for the final three-quarters of the course, without any request to do so from me. Instead of guessing how to make lectures relevant and engaging to GenY, I saw that just designing a course to be social enables amazing innovations and conversations. And as a sidenote, I made sure to give shoutouts of sincere thanks in class to those who helped extend the lecture online.

It’s not difficult to sell professors on teaching plans that enable peer-to-peer learning. Today “the work of students is increasingly seen as collaborative by nature,” according to the 2010 Horizon Report. Seen in this light, social web technologies can be very valuable, even essential. Status updates, whether on Facebook or Twitter operate as “micro-message” information vehicles traveling far and wide through the social web, observes Erick Schonfeld on TechCrunch. Teachers can “drive the micro-message bus” in our classes, if we want to have course content be at the center of students’ attention at a moment when digital culture is “sending them off in all different sorts of directions.”

However, even if we opt out of doing so, teachers may be surprised “to find our students sharing videos that we probably don’t know existed on their Facebook posts and Twitter updates,” warns Mike Richwalsky of John Carroll University in Pennsylvania. The question becomes: shall we get out in front of designing social teaching, or would we prefer to respond after students take it upon themselves to do so?

Luckily, students sharing course content via social channels enables class cohesion and community, or what Clive Thompson called social proprioception, which occurs when “a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.” Exactly.

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Categories: Engagement, Higher Education, Peer-to-peer learning
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Supporting Students’ Sharing Stuff

posted: July 8, 2010 by

image by Spencer FinnleyOkay yes, that was a silly alliteration in my title, but the truth remains: GenY students love to share information via status updates, and as blogger Josip Petrusa puts it, “we’re all looking for something to share.”

Not just anything makes the cut as status-update-worthy of course, just those tidbits that are deemed sufficiently “’cool’, ‘funny,’ and anything else that would make us look good,” Petrusa observes.

Adding value to one’s social networks by being the first to “break” news, becoming known as the go-to profile for new music, making people laugh, posting the best photos—all of these acts are about amassing cultural capital in a social computing economy.

So where does teaching enter in?

Teaching students how to find “cool” funny, odd, interesting material online, then building social platforms for this exchange to take place among classmates, even incentivizing the P2P activity by connecting it to course assessments—that’s how teachers actively support student sharing.

Any professor knows how to connect their course content to current affairs, interesting historical twists and turns, strange but true trivia, shocking stats, and key players. When we share some of that insider perspective on the course topic, those tasty shareable bits, our students gain a deeper understanding of the topic. Moreover, spicing up a lecture by designing it with these kinds of “hooks” will pique student interest, making it more likely they’ll redistribute the information along their social graph.

And there are other ways for teachers to support an academic culture of sharing, and increase student engagement in the process. We can of course build a course wiki, or social net (such as Ning) or launch a Facebook page as the platform for sharing.

And technoprofs can teach students intelligent searching strategies.

The real wizards at intelligent search logic are the librarians, and this has been true long before computers came to campus. Arranging for a librarian subject specialist to do a guest lecture or workshop for your class will help make students aware of how to avoid information overload, increase relevance of results, and optimize time spent online. This, coupled with some old-fashioned tips on how to become a better researcher, (something any faculty member should have expertise in) will add value to the course for share-minded students.

A second idea to create a sustained culture of sharing is to give students a hands-on workshop (or assignment) on social listening strategies. This will make them far more efficient at filtering the web. From free resources like Social Mention and Google Reader’s RSS organizer, to professional tools like Radian6 and MeltwaterBuzz suites of tools, social searching is a truly useful skill for individuals, as well as businesses and organizations. How to get students interested in the wonders of SEO and SERPs? Start with a bit of social listening about their personal digital footprints and online reputation.

By leveraging millennial students’ media habits and desire to share, and increasing their effectivity at it, faculty can activate the classroom while teaching 21st Century digital literacy skills. Good sharing practices and pedagogies build links between the online and offline worlds, from the lecture hall to the community beyond, and strengthen ties between students and their friends and families.

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