When you hear the term ‘Social Media,’ what do you think about?
In its most basic sense, social media is online interaction and materials created by people. There are many definitions that people use to describe social media. One definition I like the most comes from Jane Bozarth and her book Social Media for Trainers. She defines social media as “online material produced by the public, which is distinct from content produced by professional writers, journalists, or generated by the industrial or mass media.”
What people seem to forget is that social media is more than just Facebook or Twitter. Social media includes things like blogs, wikis, YouTube, and anything else that can be created by you and placed online. Social media allows for continued interaction from anywhere at any time. There is a ton of potential to use social media in an educational setting as well.
So where do you start?
I’m going to outline a few social media outlets that you can test drive. Why not give them a shot to see if you like them?
You would be hard-pressed to find a major celebrity, news anchor, or entertainment outlet that doesn’t use Twitter. In my opinion Twitter has the worst reputation of all the social media outlets. While you only have 140 characters worth of words to use, people seem to spend that precious amount on ridiculous things.
However, the potential for real-time interaction can’t be ignored. Given the right place and time, you could literally have instant responses to your questions. For example, say you wanted to contact someone around the globe about something in their home country. You could send them a ‘tweet’ and they could respond in minutes to your question. I think a great way to use Twitter would be to use it in this way. You could compile a list of questions and ask them via Twitter to someone who isn’t within your reach. You could then make those questions into an individual transcript to have or give to someone else. Granted you could just e-mail someone, but with Twitter you can include others and have real-time interaction as well.
What Twitter is to celebrities, Facebook is to the common person. Over 1 billion people use Facebook at the moment (that is nearly 14% of the world’s population). People use Facebook for all sorts of social interaction. Friends can share photos, videos, stories, and other general information with each other. It’s a great tool that can reconnect lost friendships as well.
One aspect of Facebook that is popular is the ‘group’ function. In Facebook you can create a group that is hosted by you where you can invite others. This group can be labeled as private or open to the public at your discretion. In this group you can share everything I mentioned above, including links to things like documents that people can download. It’s a nice little private space that you can bring people together and chat at any time. You also have the ability to live chat with those in your group as well!
You probably know about the basics of a blog because you found ours. In a nutshell, blogs provide an online space for posting ideas. Typically a blog is used for posting text. However, on most blogs these days you can at least add pictures and embed video. There are many blogs out there, especially in politics, that provide information on a wide array of topics. While blogs don’t provide the real-time interaction you get with other social media, blogging is still a great tool to use. Websites like Blogger and WordPress allow for easy creation and sharing of blogs.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to use a blog is for journal entries or project presentations. During my undergraduate days I had a class where I had project that required me to interview a small business owner. I then had to take that interview and create a blog from it to share with my classmates. We had to go to each others blogs and post questions to each other. It was basically a conversation we had online through the blogging website. It was a really fun project and provided a lot of opportunity for outside communication.
While social media can be scary or wasteful, I truly believe that it can be used for better things. Social media can bring people together in ways that weren’t possible before. It has the potential to take people from all over the world and bring them to your fingertips. If you are interested in using social media then do some research. Go out there and find out what might be the best fit for you. Trust me when I say that the possibilities are endless.
If you intend on using social media in your classroom, please be aware of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) laws. If you have any questions about FERPA please check out the following links:
FERPA via Ed.gov
FERPA via USF
Bozarth, Jane. 2010. Social Media for Trainers. San Francisco, CA. Pfeiffer publishing.