Using social media in education

Spending the last two days at the Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology Conference was a wonderful, enriching experience. As you’d expect from a conference that has a wealth of great sessions, I’ve come away invigorated and inspired to analyse, assess and further integrate additional teaching and assessment strategies – even though I was a co-presenter at the conference too!

I believe these conferences are vital. To get educators, particularly at tertiary level, to consider the way they deliver both content and assessment, really look at whether it’s working well or not and how they can improve, is a real focus of what I want to achieve both personally and professionally.

It was such a great experience to be able to focus in a workshop on how to use Twitter, in particular, in a tertiary education environment.

Step One

Before considering the technology, step back and think about your desired learning outcomes and competencies you need to deliver in your course.

Step Two

Consider how you deliver those things now. What works, what doesn’t? What learning styles are being addressed? I really think in a classroom environment we’re so used to seeing all the students enter and sit at the back of the room, and the same 5 people participate in discussions, that we’ve stopped realising that it’s problematic. Stopped looking at ways to improve it. Disconnect and think of what your ideal is.

Step Three

Think of things you can change to meet those different inadequacies. To improve your practice. Some of these may well include using social media to foster inclusive and participatory discussions, the elimination of people thinking they’re asking ‘dumb questions’ and resonance between students and educators.

Step Four

Gently lead your students into associating social media with an education environment. You’re going to be nervous in trying something new. They are going to be nervous that you’ll encroach their ‘personal’ domain. (Damn it, what’s next, friending them on Facebook?) While for many students, you accept there’s a number of people who will just not get involved, for the students, there are a number of them who are just expecting to fail. Simple. Think back to the most effective educators in your lives. These are the people who made a real impact. And typically, they’re the ones who tried something a little different. Who cared just that bit more. Why not be that educator to these students?

Step Five

When you’ve identified the areas of practice and efficiencies you’d like to change, focus on the tools that will help that happen. And then test it out. Invite students to take a journey with you. I bet that if you’re honest and let them know you’re testing something out for the first time, to try and get the content more engaging and interactive and anything else you’ve identified as problematic, most of them will willingly take the journey with you from the very start.

Remember:

A. Every semester is a new beginning. You don’t have to let the legacy of the previous one linger. But you should celebrate the improvements you made.

B. Every semester allows you to learn as an educator, and be even better.

C. Every student wants to learn. They’re in your class for a reason. Some don’t know what they’re going to learn. Maybe it’s just that they can. And that’s okay.

D. Get honest: Believe you can be better. Believe alternative strategies can actually work. Recognise your teaching practice wasn’t perfect to begin with.

E. Get ready to be important to your students. An educator that they remember for the rest of their lives.

Good luck this semester!

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