The revolutionary role of social media in education
Since the revolution of the Industrial Society into the Information Society, the need for education has increased to the point where having a skill was no longer required in the working world but an asset. In this society the needs of the population are information and service based as more attention is paid to information, communication and technologies which were and still are the main catalysts for our daily lives. In addition, the information society was the foundation of the computer revolution which resulted in the creation of the internet in the 19th century which was based on web 1.0 technologies; “a term used to contrast the earlier days of the web before blogs, wikis and social networking site” (PC Magazine, Online). With the development of the internet, web 1.0 was upgraded to web 2.0; a web application that allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content. This application allows the user to create their own website or gives them the ability post or transfer information via social networking websites and other social media tools. As a result of the emergence of social media, there has been a dramatic change in the teaching methodologies of educators, the way they communicate with colleagues and other stakeholders, thus creating an interactive learning environment.
The use of social media in education is an effective tool that aids students and educators in a classroom. According to Chao, Fontana and Parker, the advancement in web 2.0 technologies and the popularity of social networking on the web, allowed educators to see the radical evolution in education. They also posit that it is widespread throughout grades K-12 as well as higher educational institutions in recent years. (1) These institutions are now not only using the traditional classroom setting, but incorporating online classes as well as the use of content/course management systems in order for the users to be able to engage in the construction of their experience, rather than passively absorbing existing content, thus making learning interactive (Mason & Rennie, 2008). They further alluded that, user or student generated content adds a new dimension to the number of ways in which students can participate in creating the content of a course. An example given was the use of social media with discussions and debates in online courses where asynchronous conferences are the established mode of communication. Social media is also able to assist international students to develop a sense of belonging in the academic community, specifically building cross-culture connections with local students (Chao, Fontana & Parker, 2011). Toppo (2011), posits that, at New Milford High School, teachers routinely ask kids to power up their cell phones to respond to classroom polls and quizzes which is another way of creating an interactive form of teaching and can be used when the students leave school. Social media tools are effective in the dissemination of information to students and can be used to completely change the lecturer’s pedagogical approach towards his subject area.
Communication between lecturers and their colleagues has been revolutionized by social media in a way that face-to-face communication is reduced. Social media paves the way for quick and accurate dissemination of information between two or more persons via communication applications such as emails, instant messengers, and social networking websites. These applications allow a user to create a message using his/ her or someone else’s idea, which is then sent to one or more of his/her colleagues in order to begin the communication process on that particular idea. These applications are able to swap the roles of the sender and receiver in order for feedback to occur. These activities are done on a computer via the Internet which needs little or no face to face contact with these lecturers or parents in order for the message or idea to be transmitted. It has been stated by Toppo (2011), “Sheninger, the principal at the New Milford High School and his teachers use Facebook to communicate with students and parents while, students use it to plan events” (para 1). An example of this is when a lecturer does a peer review of another colleagues’ (who is in another geographical area) article or speech to be presented or submitted to a group of persons in Europe. Lecturers are able to communicate in a conference or seminar via Skype or Oovoo if they do not have the funds to travel to another country. Communication via social media provides lecturers with a medium for sharing lecture notes and training session with other the collaborator or presenter having to be in the same building.
Communication between students and lecturers, have also been revolutionized by social media with the use of the web 2.0 technologies to facilitate free and fast travel of information. Mason (2008) postulates that, “shared community spaces and inter-group communications are a massive part of what excites young people and therefore should contribute to user’s persistence and motivation to learn.” The use of these media in education aids students’ feedback with regards to class discussion, class group-work in a sense that he/she might not be identifiable by the entire class room, which in most cases, students are more comfortable to answer question correctly or incorrectly. Lecturers are now able to communicate with students via web calling software or web applications such as Skype, Oovoo, Ichat, and so on. Blankership (2011) posited that social media allows a lecturer the ability to teach students in other geographical locations with the use of Skype, an online program that allows the user to see and hear each other with the use of computer systems. This is very useful in education with the example of e-learning, otherwise known as online education. This is where a lecturer is able to teach a class (as far as the United States of America) at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus on the topic Slavery. Other social media tools allows lecturers or students the ability to record sessions for future use in order to understand what was taught as well as to understand the topic properly. Communication plays a vital role in education by bridging the gap between students and lecturers through the use of social media.
In conclusion, Social media and other web 2.0 technologies, creates a new approach to learning as they do not limit themselves to one format. Social media are multi-format because they may be in the form of text, videos, audio as well as interactive video games. Chao, Fontana and Parker posit that “social media and other web 2.0 technologies provide a new experience for interactive learning, and are designed to encourage student interaction, engagement, and participation in dynamic lecture classroom.” Since the development of these media, the way in which education has been taught and the communication of lecturers to colleagues and other stakeholders have dramatically been revolutionized.
Blankenship, M. (2011). How social media can and should impact higher education. Education Digest, 76(7), 39-42. Retrieved from EBSCOhost database.
Chao, J., Fontana, A. & Parker,K.(2011). Developing an interactive social media based learning environment. Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 8. 323-334. Retrieved from http://iisit.org/Vol8/IISITv8p323-334Chao301.pdf
Toppo, G. (2011). Social media find place in classroom. Oct. 19, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-07-24-schools-social-media_n.htm
Mason, R., & Rennie, F. (2008). E-learning and social networking handbook: Resources for higher education. New York: Routledge