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How can Social media be used to enhance “Teaching & Learning”?

Many people have recently written about how social media have gradually taken over our everyday life.  Today, you cannot go very far without using some type of social medium to connect with friends and family.  However, social media are becoming more prevalent in the classroom as well, giving teachers and students the opportunity to connect in non-traditional ways.  The current trends dictate that students respond well to using social media as a tool in education and it’s important that educational professionals understand this and use these tools to their advantage.  By doing so, it engages the students in a way in which they’re most familiar.

A recent survey indicated that over 80 per cent of those who responded had a social networking account of some sort and one-third of those people used social networking to communicate with peers and students alike.  Furthermore, those who taught online were statistically more likely to use social media for professional purposes as well.  It’s obvious that educators know about social networking, but as you can see, only a third of the respondents here used social networking to communicate with students.  Even if they’re not using social media to chat with students, it doesn’t mean that teachers aren’t using these tools in class.

Most educators use blogs, podcasts, video, and even wikis as part of their courses.  This is a smart thing to do.  Most students are already used to watching and listening to these media for other purposes, so it only makes sense to do the same in class.  It is important to note that in higher education, professors in the social sciences or humanities usually make greater use of social media than those in mathematics, science or business.  This actually makes sense, because social science and the humanities are less rigid, encourage discussion and elicit varying opinions, as opposed to maths or science, which are fairly cut-and-dry in their approach. However, some subjects such as design & technology are now beginning to move towards encouraging students to develop online blogs to store their coursework portfolios. The flexibility that is provided by these applications means that students can set up individual pages linked to assignments, where video footage, photos and research can all be uploaded and viewed. The benefits are obvious; all types of different medium can be uploaded, password protected and accessed through the web. Students are able to work on their blogs from home and can be as creative as they like to make their blogs personal, as well as providing the flexibility for schools to even create set templates for students to use.

Faculty members who do most of their teaching online are invariably the heaviest users of social media in the classroom.  Since their classrooms are virtual, they have very little, if any, face to face time with their students.  Therefore, to supplement the material taught, these educators use videos, blogs, and other such social media to enhance their teaching.  It shows that educators are definitely aware of social media and are looking for various ways to utilise these tools as part of their curriculum.

How are you using social media to enhance teaching and learning for yoiur students? What’s been extremely successful? What should be avoided at all costs?