Using Social Media as a Learning Tool

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.

It's All About Engagement

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 or Google+ Hangouts to engage more deeply with the material and each other;
• 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!

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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