The striking thing about this infographic is not just the stunning penetration of Twitter, but also LinkedIn. It is also interesting that the bastion of tradition in the US higher education sector, Harvard University, has the greatest reach in terms of its social networks. Among the challenges noted, is that it is not enough to simply have a presence within the social media. To maintain credibility — in terms of marketing and communication, at least — an institution’s social media profile requires full-time attention.
The latest version of the Social Media Revolution by Socialnomics was uploaded to YouTube last week. Some of the statistics have been updated and there are a number of new slides. For me, the most compelling is the very first which simply reads: social media is not about technology. This is so true. I have been campaigning long and hard for several years now to drop the ‘e’ from e-learning. It’s just learning! It’s how we do things now … or at least it’s how our students do things. Social media to a digital native is as normal as pen and paper to a digital immigrant, and yet there is still resistance to the mainstreaming of social media for formal education purposes. The argument that students don’t have sufficient access to technology is starting wear a little thin. In the Sustainable Development and Competitive Advantage MBA class I delivered at Christ University in Bangalore, India, earlier this month, the students twittered about #SDCA so much, it was trending in Bangalore at one stage during the week. On the last day, without any notice, the students made videos documenting their learning outcomes, because 56 of the 57 people in the class either had video capability on their hand held device or on their laptop.
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A lot has been written in the last year or so about how twitter might be used in the classroom, and it has even been suggested that it could conceivably replace a course management system. Jane Hart at the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies has taken this thinking one step further and set up a site called 140 University, “to build and extend your general education”, but “short courses delivered via Twitter and Facebook” are slated for delivery in the near future. Is it possible that formally certified, accredited academic courses could be delivered in 140-character tweets any time soon? Now that would be disruptive innovation taken to the nth degree!
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Few individuals who have stood in front of a class of students willingly tolerate chattering when the students should be listening to them. This is a social convention and, indeed, it is one that applies in other social settings outside of educational institutions. Traditionally, it is seen as disrespectful behaviour, and a sign that what the teacher has to say is of little or no interest. If ‘talking’ takes on a silent, electronic form in class, does it make it any less offensive?
My personal view is that in an age where technology is ubiquitous, not only is this form of talking less offensive, it should be actively encouraged. This video clip [2:30] from the PBS Frontline ‘Digital Nation’ programme provides an interesting contrast in views between faculty and students at MIT about what constitutes acceptable use of the Internet while a class is in progress. The faculty view is that if students are not giving their full attention, they risk missing something important. The student view is that important stuff does not come up every minute of every class, in which case, they can be doing something else while the teacher is talking about something they already have a firm grasp of.
I’m inclined to agree with the students, especially if they are discussing something that has been raised by the teacher with a classmate on Skype or, better still, they are Googling a resource that has been referred to by the teacher and they are sending tweets (appropriately tagged) that share their findings with others. Thus, rather than pay less attention, allowing this type of talk in class actually increases the level of engagement, and while there will be those who suggest that multitasking is damaging to concentration levels, my sense is that it can enhance learning if it is channelled in an appropriate manner.
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There was a piece in Campus Technology recently that revealed the ‘shocking truth’ that the majority of higher education faculty do not use Twitter. A survey of 1,958 higher education professionals conducted by Faculty Focus in July and August of this year recorded that 69.3 percent of respondents do not use Twitter in any capacity, and 56.4 percent have not tried it at all. Some of the reasons advanced by faculty members for not using Twitter included lack of relevance to education, the danger that microblogging might contribute to poor writing skills, that they don’t understand how to use it, or that they simply don’t have the time for it.
I’m sure a survey focusing on the usage of PowerPoint in the mid-1990s would have generated a broadly similar response. The fact is, notwithstanding the huge growth in twitterers, we are still very much in the innovator/early adoption stage in the technology adoption lifecycle as far as the educational applications of Twitter are concerned. Personally, I was on Twitter for six months without really knowing why and I was quite comfortable about this because it only by immersing yourself in these technologies that you come to appreciate their usefulness (or lack thereof). The twitterisation process has some way to go in the education sector yet and, as someone who is typically an early adopter, I am still very much in the experimentation phase.
An excellent video clip (5:18) that reports on an experiment using Twitter in the classroom by Dr. Monica Rankin, a professor of History at UT Dallas. It seems to be a good way of engaging students but, more importantly, of enhancing inclusiveness and participation levels, both in and outside of the classroom.
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Just came across a reference in my Twitter-Using Educators LinkedIn group to an article published in the Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago entitled: Embracing the Twitter Classroom. Authored by Jessica Gross, it includes some interesting references, among them a story about a Penn State University professor, Cole Camplese, who maintains a screen full of his students’ Twitter streams throughout each class. According to Camplese, once students warm to the idea that their professor actually wants them to chat during class, they begin floating ideas or posting links to related materials. In addition, where a shy student might type an observation or question on Twitter, others in the class would respond with notes encouraging the student to raise the topic out loud. On other occasions, the professor would see a link posted by a student and stop class to discuss it.
This is an excellent example of what Howard Rheingold refers to as participatory pedagogy. Bringing social media into classrooms, says Rheingold, is “challenging the 1000-yr-old paradigm that you have to learn from a master and the only way to do that is to go to lecture and take notes”. Indeed, as the article goes on to point out, “teaching students to learn from and with each other is a wise acknowledgment that more and more, students are relying on their peers for information. Sixty-five percent of Americans aged 12-17 and 67 percent of those aged 18-32 use social networking sites, according to the Pew Research Center. Students’ lives are infused with each other’s viewpoints.”