01 November 2009

a social media research project

This week finds me thinking about a research project we started in the Educational Research module of the MACI program at SNU.  This module may prove to be the most challenging class of my academic career, but possibly the most rewarding. I am integrating the research project into a some sub-committee work I am doing with the Putnam City Technology Committee. We are tasked with integrating online resources into our curriculum and I think social media is a great extension of the classroom.

My research is qualitative in nature, probably due to the time constraints of a six week-long module, so I will not have any hard numbers to analyze. I have already begun to notify my peer learning network of this project and will be contacting many of them further, via social media, of course!

Since my research is about social media, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about the different types I use in my classroom.

  • Facebook - I friend students (at their request, not mine) on facebook and use it as a way to build community beyond my classroom. Students communicate with me for homework help via the chat function. I get better insight into student's home life through status updates. I am also able to show students that I am a real person as they read my status updates. They can get some insight into my home life, as well, and begin to understand that I do normal things; I am just a person with many of the same life struggles as they have.

  • Twitter - I only have a few students who use twitter, but I still consider it social media in my classroom. Most of the students I am in contact with through twitter are in my advisory class (Pirate Time - kind of like a homeroom, which students attend once a week).  This enables me to know what is going on in their lives, since I only get to see them once a week.

  • Wikis - I do a wiki project in my physics class, which has been mentioned several times on this blog. Its seems to be more "acceptable" to students, instead of a straight ahead research paper, even though that's what they are doing. It is a "paperless" research paper. They even submit the entire project to turnitin.com at the conclusion of the project. Its much easier to grade, since I only need an internet capable computer, instead of carrying around a gigantic stack of papers. The point of the project, however, is not to make things easy on me. The point is to teach students they have the ability to contribute to the body of knowledge and their contributions can be seen/used by others. It extends the boundaries of our classroom beyond the walls of our school.  English teachers constantly talk to students about "writing to their audience", but do they do anything to extend the audience beyond the teachers themselves? In most cases, probably not.  This project also teaches students not to be afraid of Wikipedia, but that's an entirely different post.

  • Skype - I am very new to skype. Skype is a free, voice over IP (VOIP), which allows free videoconferencing. I've been consulting with mishelleyb since last year about this, but am just now getting its use implemented. I have some ideas for this in the classroom and they include:

  1. Guest scientists - Its much easier to have a researcher talk to a webcam for 15 minutes than it is to have them travel to Oklahoma City.

  2. Collaboration with other classrooms - I just contacted another Earth Science teacher in Maine via email and we are hoping to talk to each others classrooms about the differences in climate, types of storms, etc. through skype.

  • Social Bookmarking - I am vested in delicious.com, even though there are several platforms out there, which offer the same benefits. I require, at the beginning of the wiki project, each student to setup an account with Delicious. They save each bookmark on delicious as while they are working on the research project. I require them to tag each bookmark with "pcwiki", so they are easily searchable. Anyone can go to the website and search for that tag and see the resources we are using for the project. It also allows me to easily share bookmarks with students as I find them by simply tagging them when I save the bookmark. It makes the transition from home computer to school computer much easier by eliminating the need for saving all bookmarks in a document on a flash drive. I have noticed my most successful students continue to use this tool even after they leave my classroom, especially as they begin to work on projects in college. This fact makes me very happy!

Have you noticed a recurring theme in my reasoning for the use of social media? If you guessed extending the boundaries of my classroom, you guessed correctly! Each different type of social media I use were chosen specifically for that reason.

The following are a list of questions I am going to begin using in my research project. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about them. If you are interested in being an interviewee, please contact me via email (jbowie at putnamcityschools dot org) or direct message me on twitter. Do you use social media in your classroom? Why do you use it? Why do you not use it? What experience have you had with social media in the past? Do you feel your students are prepared for the 21st century?  Why or why not? Do they have the ICT skills needed to be successful after leaving your classroom? Are you aligning your curriculum to include these technology standards? Why or why not? Would you please share a positive or negative experience you have had with the use of social media in an educational setting?

I am looking forward to your comments! As always, thanks for reading.

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