Using Social Media for Learning

By Ashford University Staff

Social Media

It's no secret that social media is in the middle of most people's lives. Social media influences how we live, how we work, and now more than ever, how we learn. According to a recent study, more and more teachers and professors are incorporating social media into their classrooms to engage students and support their educational development, whether online or in person. In short – social media is shaping and influencing how students learn and interact today.

The Role of Social Media as a Learning Tool

The rise of social media in the classroom isn't about how many people "like" your posts. The collaborative environment and open forum that social media encourages, along with the rapid-pace of information sharing that it facilitates, means that students can accelerate the development of their creative, critical thinking, and communication processes in certain ways when they use it.

Social media promotes self-directed learning, which prepares students to search for answers and make decisions independently. When reinforced in a classroom setting, these social media skills can be guided and refined to produce better learning outcomes and critical awareness. Social media also allows students more freedom to connect and collaborate beyond the physical classroom, which means students anywhere can start to experience the globally connected world long before they enter the workforce.

Technology for Engaged Learning

Social learning is active learning, which means that students participate directly in their own learning rather than passively absorbing information they will most likely forget once the exam is over. Social media shapes and presents information in a way that makes sense to and excites students more than traditional tools do, whether it's through a shared article with comment functionality, a livestream of an important event, a survey related to course materials, or a question posed to the broader community.

Furthermore, sharing posts and information with other students, rather than simply submitting assignments to the teacher, promotes deeper engagement and better performance from all students. If students know from the start that they and their peers will interact with course materials and each other on various social media platforms, they may put in more effort to both their work and online presence.

Types of Social Media Tools

Professors may use any of the following social media platforms as learning tools:

• Blogs with comment functionality to share and discuss information;
• Twitter and course hashtags to encourage open forum and debate;
• Skype to engage more deeply with the material and each other;
• Pinterest for sharing clever ideas, inspiration, and valuable resources amongst students:
• Google Docs, Wikis and other collaborative document tools to store and refine data;
• Project Management Apps to foster and streamline collaboration;
• LinkedIn and other social networks to build connection;
• YouTube to create both course and student presentations;
• And more!

Education Experts and Twitter

Along with encouraging an open forum in the classroom, Twitter can be utilized as access to professionals in each field and the conversations they’re having. As education and technology continue to meld together, many forward-thinking subject matter experts weigh in with their insights and experiences. Their blogs and social media feeds are plenty and ever-growing. Here are just a handful of top education experts:

  1. The Chronicle of Higher Education is a top source of news and information for faculty members in higher education but is also of interest to students and anyone else with an interest in issues affecting colleges and universities today.
  2. The Guardian Higher Education Network is produced by the UK news source The Guardian and is full of advice and insight related to higher education. Despite coming from across the pond, it’s for anyone working anywhere in or with higher education.
  3. Steven W. Anderson, the Director of Instructional Technology for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, NC, is “blogging about the web 2.0 connected classroom.”
  4. Andrew Campbell is an opinionated and funny educator who blogs about technology in the classroom, amongst other topics.
  5. Tom Vander Ark is the founder of GettingSmart.com, a site that encourages readers to think, learn, and innovate. Tom is the author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World.

Pinterest for Student Collaboration

Pinterest is a great opportunity for students to create studying and ideation resource boards. These can be used to further their studies, careers, or even their peer relationships! Here are just a few ways Pinterest can be used as a resource for learning.

  • Inspiration - A board full of quotes, compelling photos, or anything that keeps students feeling inspired. They can check this board for a good motivational boost.
  • Writing Resources - Being able to write and communicate effectively is essential to students. They can never have too much writing advice. This board can be used to save pins that are helpful for writing papers, researching, or just a quick brush up on grammar.
  • Technology - For those pursuing an online bachelor’s degree, it should help to keep up with the latest tech news and helpful tips. Tips, news updates, software tricks, and new apps can be pinned to keep students up with the latest and greatest.
  • Career Tips - Interview outfits, resume tips, job statistics - by creating a board full of career resources, students will feel even more ready to tackle the job hunt after graduation.

LinkedIn for Building Networks

When it comes to networking, LinkedIn is an indispensable resource. Schools typically maintain a presence on LinkedIn, and there are numerous official LinkedIn groups geared toward smaller niches within the larger community. You’ll see LinkedIn groups devoted to alumni, veterans, colleges, departments, degree programs, and extracurricular interests. You’re certain to find one or two groups that align with your personal interests.

Students don’t need to wait until after graduation to start networking. If you start participating in pertinent LinkedIn groups while you’re still a student, you’ll already have built a solid network by the time you graduate.

Even after graduation, you’ll probably want to stay connected to your school’s community. They’ll find out about benefits like alumni events and have access to a network of other students, graduates, faculty, and staff all over the country. Leverage your school’s connection to build a formidable, professional network. You never know when a fellow alumnus or a former professor might be able to help you out in your life or career. They may have leads on the perfect job for you, or maybe just some good advice.

Creating a Social-Savvy Workforce

Not only can social media in the classroom create more collaborative and creative work from students, it can also help students identify real-world applications for the social media tools they already use. Today more than ever, students, working professionals, and even businesses need to be savvy on social media to succeed. Especially when carefully developed and directed during school, social media skills can, therefore, help students find jobs in a marketplace that increasingly relies on digital tools for networking and information sharing.

If used with intention, social media can positively influence the way each individual learns and absorbs information in the classroom. Incorporating social media into a more traditional learning environment can expand students' creative freedom and encourage them to work harder and engage more. Of course, as the social media landscape changes, classrooms will also need to adapt – but with social media already impacting the way we learn and interact outside of the classroom, applications within the classroom will likely only increase.

Written by Ashford University staff.


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