Social media finds a new home in the classroom

October 25, 2010

Now that the traditional school year is well underway, a new burst of attention is being given to social media within the teaching environment. In a recent article on entitled "How connected are your professors? More so than some might think," Sam Hayes summarizes:

"The May 4 survey asked 939 professors at two and four-year colleges if they had at least one account with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Google Wave, Skype, LinkedIn or Slideshare. Eighty percent said they used at least one of these functions, with 60 percent reporting that they had accounts with more than one social media site."

If this survey had focused on students, the results would have hardly been surprising. But look again, the survey was given to...professors! 80% of the educators surveyed are currently using some kind of social media.

In addition to online social media sites, tools like Blackboard Learn allow teachers to embed and share videos and other mixed media within a lesson. In a recent press release, Blackboard stated that "the adoption rate is faster than for any new learning management release in Blackboard’s history." Widespread adoption of mixed media learning tools, combined with the tight budgets that educators must work within, has led to greater use of new media platforms. Western Washington University's Alyson Ihrig writes that "by not printing syllabuses, exams and other documents for class, the geology department plans to save 4,000 sheets of paper and $830 by the end of each quarter."

But what about the curriculum itself? This year University of Kentucky is testing a new course which will be required for all Fall Freshmen in 2011. The course will combine oral speech and digital media in order to prepare students for the professional use of social networking tools like Facebook. A pilot class is being tested this year, with the final two-sequence course included in the 2011 curriculum.

To learn more about how educators can incorporate social media into their teaching toolbox, see Mashable's recommendations: 7 Fantastic Free Social Media Tools for Teachers.

Educators: what social media tools and techniques are you using in your classroom and beyond? How is social networking affecting the teaching and learning experience?