Socializing and Collaborating

Check out my article on socializing and collaborating with social media.

Social and Collaborative Media: Tools and Strategies for the Educator

After reviewing the podcast, “Social Media and Education” created by Dr. Sarah Robbins-Bell ( and the book, “The Wisdom of the Crowds” by James Surowiecki ( I believe that social media collaboration falls into two categories: for the student and for the teacher.  For each group of users social media enhances the learning process.  Before this new type of communication people thought that learning could only happen in a classroom setting by a selected “expert”.  “Most of us lack the ability—and the desire—to make sophisticated cost-benefit calculations.  Instead of insisting on the best possible decision, we will often accept one that seems good enough” (Surowiecki XIV).   However, with new resources such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and Wiki pages everyone has the power of education.

For the student social media is a resource to gain knowledge and insight on any topic at any level.  This new technology allows students from all over the nation and the world to collaborate on similar interests and studies.  This learning does not always happen in the classroom.  For many students using resources on the web at their discretion allows them to become experts on topics of their choice, ones that may not be refereed to or discussed in class.  

Social Media is also a great tool at connecting and meeting new people.  Students are no longer held back by the number of students in their class, school or community.  Using sites such as Twitter and Diigo students can meet other students, creating friendship and connections.  These sites create an opportunity for a conversation.  Instead of being taught in the lecture format students can now benefit from a two-way conversation with not only their teacher, but with other students as well. “Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus and compromise” (Surowiecki XIX)  For example, when students are studying a particular culture or society students will have the ability to research and make connections directly with the source or place, instead on just looking at pictures in a book.

In addition to collaborating and communicating these sites also provide students the opportunity to become publishers of their work and knowledge.  By conducting their own research they can explore a topic, hence making it their own.  Using programs such as Facebook or Flickr students can now publish or post their findings and products for all to see.  In fact, this is now a great way for students to secure jobs and internships based on their work speaking for itself.  With all these opportunities for self-directed education it is apparent that teachers must change their techniques as well.

Teachers are now redefining their role in the educational system.  It is important for teachers to realize that they are no longer the gatekeepers of information.  With all the social media resources available to their students, teachers must not try control knowledge, but rather encourage student to explore and discover information for themselves.  Instead of just teaching the information, teachers must now teach the skills necessary for students to be successful in a social media world.  Among these new skills is the awareness that it is their right as global citizens for students to access information and share it with the world.            

Another important fact to remember as an educator using social media is that it is OK not be an expert at everything.  By turning over power to the students to teach what they know everyone in the class can benefit, even the teacher.  This is precisely the point that James Surowiecki makes in his book “The Wisdom of the Crowd”.  In this book the idea that the more minds being consulted the more options and knowledge will be presented.  ““The argument for this book is that chasing the expert is a mistake, and a costly one at that.  We should stop hunting and ask the crowd (which, of course, includes geniuses as well as everyone else) instead” (Surowiecki XV).  By empowering students to learn all they can and share their knowledge schools will be creating life long learners that never stop researching, questioning and publishing.  This will eventually create a community where, if knowledge is power, every member will be equipped to become very influential on the world around them.

Teachers can also become students of social media.  Each site mentioned above that aid in student collaboration and communication can be applied to teachers.  Using sites such as Flickr and Shelfari teachers can post questions, comments, and research that their colleagues can review and provide feedback on.  For example, as an art teacher I could post my lessons or projects on a site like Diigo and other teachers could post suggestions and questions that may make my lesson stronger and more meaningful.    

Finally, these online tools can enhance learning for students who sometimes seem distracted or bored.  For these students, the ones that stare aimlessly out into space, social media tools provide an opportunity for enrichment.  ‘By giving them a task, such as researching a topic for the class you are taking a passive learner and making them active.  Now they do not have time to stay uninvolved, they are busy contributing to the class’ (Social Media and Education).It is in this way that social media tools not only help create better learners, but better teachers as well.   

For all the positives social media provides there are still some areas that can cause issues in the classroom.  It is important to remember that social media sites are meant to enhance, not take the place of teaching.  In order for students to use these resources effectively they must be taught how to use them.  By modeling it first teachers can provide a great introduction to the resource and how it can be used.  Then it is time for students to practice.  Let them experiment with each tool, encouraging exploration on each site.  Only if a student is comfortable with the tool will he or she use it.  It is also important to teach students to be responsible learners.  The quote “With great power comes great responsibility” from Superman says it all.  Have knowledge is having power; one must be taught how to gain it, use it, and then share it with the world.  This process does take time; however, in the end students will have skills that will make them successful throughout their lives.   

Overall, my opinion on social media has changed.  Before this assignment I was convinced that these tools were meant for only personal reflection, not educational value.   I can now see the benefit to proving these opportunities for my students.  For example, as an art teacher, using a site like Flickr would be a great resource for students to publish their artwork and even conduct a virtual critique of the classes work.  In this program other students and I could evaluate and comment on a students work, making it stronger.  By allowing students to provide feedback they now feel connected to the work of art and the artist is provided with many great suggestions.  In addition to Flickr I am interested in exploring and incorporating other sites such as Shelfari, Diigo and creating my own art blog that is accessible to students.  I am excited to begin using many of these great resources.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: