Social Media & Education: Brief guide to jump-start your social media efforts

google plus for teaching

After my blog post about Facebook & Teaching I received quite a lot of mails asking for more examples and advice on how to use Social Media for teaching purposes. While I am currently writing on further in depth posts on how to use some of the well known social media platforms I thought it might also be a good idea to get a post out that doesn’t get to much into detail but shows some of the current highlights of social networks in terms of educational implementation possibilities.

Having that said I hope everyone understands that this is just thought as an overview. The more specific posts to each of these social networks are coming soon.

1.) Facebook

facebook for teaching

First place in our little journey across social media plattforms is, of course, Facebook. Kind of a no-brainer since Facebook is still THE fastest growing Social Network worldwide and the number one Social Network in most countries.

If you are interested in an in-depth analysis on how to use facebook for teaching purposes, please follow this link to my currently published article about exactly this matter: Social Media & Education: Facebook for Teaching.

In short: Facebook is great because most students already are there! They generally know how to use it (mostly for fun of course though) and they feel comfortable sharing and interacting with content on facebook. So the ‘this is new, I don’t know how to use it’ time wouldn’t apply here. Furthermore facebook offers you a variety of possibilities to interact with students. You can use facebook groups for closed interaction, host videos, share documents, uses pages for a brighter audience and let students maintain these or interact with them on your personal profile. While I totally support this kind of multi-communication structure I understand as well that there are many teachers who simply want their freedom as soon as they leave class. Even for those facebook makes it quite easy. If you know how to use your privacy settings it is no problem to only share and interact in a way you feel comfortable.

The negative aspect with facebook. What you post on facebook stays there (well that’s actually the case with most places in the internet). Even if you delete it, it might stay there for a while. It won’t be available via your site or link, but it still is somewhere ‘in the internet’. However, as mentioned, that’s the case almost everywhere.

2.) Twitter

Twitter is nowadays also a widely known Social Network across students. While many of them still only use it as a kind of chat (which isn’t actually the true power of twitter) it offers you another possibility of interacting with your students (in depth post soon to come!). Twitter enables you to connect to your students in a more ‘anonymous’ way. There are no big status updates, no profiles that change their relationship status every second day. It is basically only about sharing short (140 characters) messages and thoughts. Therefore it is ideal for discussions (you can adress messages directly and tag them so that others can join the conversation). Furthermore it is useful for sharing your assignments, useful articles, book tips, etc. without getting to much into the private life (that normally happens on facebook) of your students. Furthermore you don’t need to ‘follow’ (adding on twitter) your students. It is enough that they add you. Nobody stops you from adding them though. In depth post ‘Social Media & Education: Twitter for Teaching’ coming in January.


3.) Google Plus

google plus for teaching Google Plus is the new guy in our social media class. It was launched by google in 2011 and is considered by many people as direct competitor to facebook. In my opinion however there are some significant differences. Besides that fact that you, of course, can manage a profile, add people to your circles (what you can achieve on facebook when ordering people into lists). Obviously you can also send messages, write on profiles, share pictures and videos and so on. An improvement to facebook however is the video chat function (called ‘hangout’). While facebook, right now, only offers one to one video chats, google plus lets you ‘hang out’ with as many people as you like. That is a very neat move and enables you to offer very interactive classes with students and teachers in different places at the same time (you have to figure out by yourself why this could be good for your class). Furthermore it eases teamwork up. So if you are having assignments where teamwork comes into play, you might suggest google plus (as add on google’s free service ‘google documents’) as tool of choice. In depth post ‘Social Media & Education: Google Plus & Teaching’ is scheduled for late January.

4.) Youtube

youtube for teachingteaching with youtube Supposing most of you are already using youtube to watch videos once in a while I can keep this one short. Using videos for your classes can be of great help. It is not only entertaining and lets students repeat your stuff over and over again on their own pace, it also urges students to interact and be creative. After setting up your own channel you can divide videos into different lists (see screenshots), promote further sites of yours and – one thing I like very much – you can edit videos quite nicely. For editing you don’t need much video editing knowledge since it is quite easy to follow the steps youtube suggests. With these editing possibilities your videos can get even more engaging and interactive (e.g. if you use annotations and links). Moreover, if you are afraid to show yourself or your teaching material online to the world, you can adjust your video settings the way that only you and the people you invite (or the ones that have the link) can see your videos. All power stays with you. So why don’t you just give it a try? Another nice thing by the way: Videos can be embedded into other social networks quite easily. So youtube is a nice add on to all the other networks mentioned here. (of course there are other video hosting platforms, I just stuck to youtube since it is the most popular). In-depth post about teaching & youtube coming early 2012.

5.) Foursquare

foursquare for teachingFinally a Social Service that most of you haven’t been expecting I guess. Foursquare. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it: Foursquare works similar to ‘Facebook Places’. You use it via your mobile phone and GPRS. It allows you to ‘check in’ in public places or to create your own places where others can ‘check in’. Saying this some of the opportunities that lie within foursquare might already come to your mind. Paper-chases or scavenger hunts for example. Furthermore foursquare allows to hand ‘badges’ or other rewards to users. This means you, as user, can earn rewards for checking repeatedly in the same place. Might be a further point of interest for your class. For further ideas on how to use foursquare and more services you probably haven’t thought about, check back in early 2012.

6.) Edmodo

edmodo secure social learning Edmodo is the only Network mentioned here that has it’s main aim in providing teachers and students with social media related study possibilities. However I have to say that I only used it for a short time now since it is not very famous over here and I usually don’t want to ‘force’ my students to join another network. I usually try to stick to networks they know and like. If you make them use more and more networks that’s like making them read books they don’t want to read. In this way you might take the fun out of using the internet for studies. However edmodo gained quite some reputation among teachers online so it should be mentioned here. It looks like a facebook clone (even the colors are the same) and allows you as teacher to manage different groups (grades) of students, create assignments & discussions and use the network to store further information and communicate with your students.

There are a few more networks that aim on student & teacher relations but as mentioned above I am not a big fan of forcing students into something. However, if there is enough time, I will give some of those services a try and post the outcome here.

7.) Own Website / Blog
own blog for teaching purposes This is now by far the option that needs the most maintenance and has the biggest set-up process involved. Even if you have a ‘computer guy’ helping you out with setting everything up you still need to understand how the website works and how to use the backend.

Speaking from my personal experience it is however worth the work. With a own website / blog you can motivate students to write own articles and publish them to a wide audience. Furthermore using a blog or website with a CMS (Content Management System) will enable students to get used to this kind of backend and prepare them for using systems like this in the future (depending on the field you are teaching this might be from importance). Finally it is also a nice place to publish videos (we talked about youtube earlier) or further assignments. Telling students that their work will be accessible online on the ‘official’ website or blog of your school / college / uni should add some extra motivation. A post about how I use our own website / blog for teaching can be found here: Using your own website / blog for teaching purposes.

8.) Skype

skype for teaching Another entry many might not have been expected. Skype is not a social network of course, but a social media related service. Skype enables you to add people to your address book and chat with them (like msn live messenger, icq, aim, etc.). The strength of skype however does not lie in the chat function, it lies in the ‘telephone’ and ‘video chat’ function. Unlike facebook it offers, similar to google+, the possibility of conference calls. This means you can chat (talk!) with many different participants at the same time. Furthermore it offers the option to ‘share’ your computer screen. This means your chat partner can see your screen and what you are doing. This is, obviously, a great feature for studies. Using this you can show live how to complete different tasks without being present at the same time. This adds a completely new form of flexibility to your teaching and consulting possibilities. Skype will be featured in the post I already announced when talking about foursquare. So if you are interested, make sure to check back early 2012.

That’s it for today. I hope this brief overview gives you a first impression on how social media can be of value for every teacher. If you have specific questions or a completely different opinion, please feel free to comment. Like always I am happy to discuss this topic with as many people as possible.

So long, happy holidays!