Today is the second of what I hope will be many days of work at SNU. Friday was the official first day, but that was time spent in Human Resources with a little bit of running around and meeting with the Director of Online Learning. She got me a broad overview of the grant and it's purpose; so at least I have a vague idea of the direction we are moving.
I'll be spending some time today in faculty workshop. I'm going to be doing some PD with faculty about using Social Media in the classroom. Seems like pretty standard fare if you've been reading my blog for very long. However, it occurred to me that the powers that be want me to teach the faculty something new. These are the people who were my teachers, mentors, & professors (and continue to be so). It just struck me as odd.
I'm going to organize my thoughts here a little bit.
A few of the biggest things I like about Social Media in the classroom is that it can bring new perspectives in (through non-class members sharing), it expands the boundaries of the classroom (again, engaging people outside the classroom in conversation), and it can extend the amount of time students spend learning your content (by continuing the conversation outside the 50 minutes see your face each day). I'll spend a bit of time talking about a few of the tools available and how to integrate those.
As I write this, I'm thinking specifically about faculty who are late adopters (or non-adopters) and I can see them looking at me with skepticism. What in the world is that about? These people know me. Many (dare I say most) of them, I have a pretty good relationship. In fact, that was what I stressed in my interview. I already have significant amounts of currency in my relationship accounts with many of these folks. So what am I worried about? I know there are going to be some who don't "buy it" who are not (and maybe never will) drink the technology Kool-Aid.
Facebook - It's a great way to extend the time you can interact with students. According to TechCrunch, 85% of them are using the site already. That statistic is from 2005, so I would imagine the number is much higher. You can create a group for each class. You could post materials and put reminders there about assignments, due dates, or even just a word of encouragement. The great thing about it is that you don't have to friend your students. As the teacher (or the student) you post on the group wall and it shows up in the news feed of everyone else. It's like seeing all of your students outside of class and talking to them about class.
Twitter - Twitter could function similar to Facebook in that it uses status updates to carry on a conversation about class/content. However, there are no groups. But there are hashtags. If you create hashtag for your class and have your students tweet using that hashtag. For instance, if you wanted to see what conversation is happening right now about Education, you could look here. If you are on twitter, the "Discover" button at the top is a hashtag search. If you have never heard of a hashtag, it is analogous to a keyword search. If you have ever searched for an article in a database using a keyword, you already understand how to use hashtags. They are simply searches for keywords in the conversation that is happening on twitter. It's simply a way for you to focus on what a particular subject of conversation. If you aren't sure what a hashtag might look like for your classes, I teach an Earth's Natural Disasters Class. It starts next week, so it's a winter class. My hashtag could be #ENDwint12. I could then have students use that hashtag everytime they tweeted anything related to class and I could easily search for it.
This strategy is especially useful for things like reminders, changes, canellations, etc. You can also use it as what is called a "backchannel". This idea is akin to passing notes in class, but you are able to see it. It gives students the option to ask questions, make comments, etc. without interrupting what's going on. These are very useful during formal presentations, but could also be utilized in the classroom.
Twitter has a 140 character limit. Imagine asking students to synthesize an entire semester's worth of learning in your class into a single tweet? You might be surprised at the results.
Google+ - I could probably share for an entire hour about each of these tools, but Google+ probably has the most functionality. It has components of both Facebook and Twitter. The great thing about this one, is that since SNU is a Google Campus, all students and faculty are already on Google+. They need only click their name at the top right hand corner of the page (when logged into email) and then click "Join Google+" and set up their profile.
In Google+, you have what are called "circles". This would be very similar to a group on Facebook. You add people to circles. They have no idea how you have your circles arranged. They only see that you have said something. You simply choose which circles you send your update to. If I had a Physical Geography circle, I could add students. When I write an update on Google+, I simply choose my Physical Geography circle as the group to with which the update is shared. Like all update services, you can share links, photos, or places.
One other really great thing about Google+ is the Hangouts function. You create a hangout and it becomes a virtual space for you to interact via webcam and voice with people who come to your hangout. Think of it as office hours without students having to actually walk into your office. This is fantastic for you if you teach online. You can still interact with students even without them being at your physical location.
This is my starting point for what I'm going to talk about this afternoon. What have you been doing with Social Media in your classroom? I'm certainly open to ideas to share!