Social media for teaching and learning

Earlier this week I attended a University of Reading workshop on using social media for teaching and learning. A storify summary of the day is available here.

I thought the day was very useful overall, although there were lots of things discussed (such as Padlet and Quizizz) that I would consider more ‘online tools’ than social media, really. There were lots of examples of good practice, but some of the key points that I took away were:

  • Privacy is a real issue of concern for many academics and students. Facebook offers a greater degree of ‘distance’ than Twitter (you don’t have to be ‘friends’ to be in the same group and communicate, groups can be kept private). Some academics were also concerned about potential problems arising from more informal modes of communication with their students and were worried that they might get in trouble with the university for not following established protocols. I suppose the key here is for the university to publish clearer guidelines on acceptable social media use for professional and educational purposes.
  • Cultural differences affect social media choices! Facebook isn’t big with Chinese students, for example. So this is important to bear in mind when selecting the right platform to use with your students
  • It’s better to back web-based tools rather than programs which need to be downloaded (often university machines are locked down and any new programs and updates need IT departments to get involved).
  • Lack of confidence amongst academics is a key barrier as well. I think there is such an opportunity here for us to get involved, as there is a clear demand for more training and expertise sharing! I know many librarians already run social media workshops for staff and students (Judge Business School Library, for example), and as professionals experienced in providing training on new technologies and ways of managing and navigating information, we already have many of the necessary skills.
London skyline

London looking lovely on a summer’s evening

I would like to incorporate social media into my own teaching practices but I’m not sure how well this would work, particularly given the way in which I often only see students for one or two isolated sessions throughout their academic careers, rather than having a sustained relationship with them over time. The web tools, however, are easier to apply in the sessions that I teach, and I will definitely try them out in some of the induction sessions I’m running in October!

Overall the day was a brilliant learning experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing ideas and opportunities with academics from across the university, finding out what works, and what doesn’t.

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