We have been talking a lot about building effective eLearning courses and the importance of engaging and motivating the students along the eLearning journey. What we haven’t talked about yet is how to utilize networking and social media for making learning effective.
You will agree that the benefits of social collaboration are vast: it evokes the effect of competition and leads to more active participation in studying, students learn how to respect each other’s ideas and opinions, learn how to search for alternative solutions and compromises and how to criticize ideas, not people.
But how to adopt the social learning approach and start using social media in everyday teaching practice? Are there things teachers need to be aware of?
These are the questions we addressed to an instructional designer and a professor of EdTech and Social Networking - Josh Murdock.
Let’s listen to Josh!
Why don’t we start off by getting to know you and how you got into the eLearning field?
Josh: I’ve been in higher education for almost 20 years. So, I kind of started out in education, was working in education while I was going to college, and then continued on.
I went to a community college here, got a great scholarship, started working at UCF after graduating there, got my master’s degree in higher education leadership. Then, I started working at Valencia. I have been here for around 13 years now.
One of the things I started doing now is teaching students educational technology and how it can benefit our classroom.
As I was going through that, online learning started to develop and I can see it becoming more popular. I wanted to get a better sense of it, so I could contribute to the field I really liked.
Social media is a great way to connect with friends; it is a valuable marketing tool. But why use it for educational purposes?
Josh: I’ve used it in all different ways.
As for educational purposes, it is the way people connect now. It’s really changed the way people communicate and connect with each other. So, that’s one thing.
Another thing is that you are teaching teachers and students as they go along their careers. Even in K-12 they are becoming better digital learners and, hopefully, have more skills in digital literacy, understand how to use these tools right, the benefits of using these tools, how to connect with people... It’s changed so much over the years.
It’s also where the students are. Instead of trying just to get students into Learning Management Systems, ask yourself where the students are, what they like to do, what they like to use. The chances that you will benefit if you take learning outside the classroom are pretty high.
What about the limitations?
Josh: Actually, I teach a class called “Teaching and Learning with Social Media” and we talk about limitations there. For example, sometimes students just don’t want to use social media and you need to have another option for them.
I teach a class “Social networking for a job search” where you are expected to use social media in the class. Other classes like journalism or marketing might require social networking as well. But if you are teaching history, it might be not a requirement to use social media for that course. You can make it a part of the course, make it an option for an assignment, but for the students that don’t want to use that for some reason, you have to have another alternative.
So, you need to be careful and open. Also, give students a little bit of knowledge about privacy, security, about what is private and what is public, how you are going to keep a record of what they are doing and are talking about.
Also, set clear expectations of a social media etiquette and talking with classmates in the online environment.
How do the terms “social learning” and “social media” relate? Is social media a tool for social learning?
Josh: I think it can be a great tool for that. It is also a great tool for people to connect beyond the classroom, whether we are talking about other courses being taught within the college or the courses around the world that are doing similar things. Social learning is about how you can get involved and learn more on your own.
How can social media be used as learning platforms?
Josh: One of the great ways social media can be used as a learning platform is diving into communication. It is not going to replace everything about learning platforms such as quizzing, reporting and other aspects that you keep internal to your course and what happens within the LMS, but it is used as a learning platform through building a community, looking at things globally, diving into what is happening outside and using something students are familiar with.
Maybe they don’t know how to use social media to connect with the right people; maybe they don’t know how to use social media for a job search in groups and communities. We should teach them!
So, teaching those kinds of things is very important for a lot of students.
How has the use of social media in education evolved over the last decade?
Josh: I remember doing a presentation on using social media in education probably about 7 years ago at a conference. There was a huge hot topic with 4 rooms and people very interested in what is going on.
I think you see those kinds of topics still come up. Not only do we see how the way people communicate has changed, but also how social media itself is changing, for example, popularity of video, one-on-one connections, messaging, the use of communication in small groups etc.
Not only do people share things globally, a lot of private stuff happens too. Students have changed a lot as well. We have changed as a society by expecting things 24/7. Things like: “Hey, I want to know the answer to that, or I want to be able to reach out to someone, or I want to share this anytime I want” are normal.
We see a lot of media development, not just the written language, a lot of photos, video, and graphics. This is how the platforms are changing. We see a lot of live things.
What advice would you give to someone looking to adopt the social learning approach in education?
Josh: First of all, use it yourself. Get in there, play with the platforms, understand how they are being used, and see what you can do with them…
But another thing is – mock up your plans and don’t try to do everything at once. Don’t use every social media platform out there with your class, figure out what works best for your students, figure out where they want to be and include them in this conversation.
What to read next?
The Secret of Building Professional Learning Communities – Interview with Meenoo Rami
How to Start Using Technology in the Classroom - Interview with Kyle Pace
Advanced Technologies Needed to Foster Online Learning - Interview with Ryan Tracey