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Social Networking Tools

Social networking tools are just that: tools. These spaces are more than just celebrity gossip and pictures of cats and other cute animals; they represent an opportunity to think of your learning space differently. They allow an instructor to engage with students in new ways, and leaves space for asynchronous and synchronous collaborations opportunities.

The majority of students are using social media and social networking tools in some capacity. And, if fact, the pace of change in terms of which social media tools are being used by students seems to change annually now. The purpose of this section is not to introduce you to every single tool, but instead to outline an ethos for using social media tools in the classroom and for assignments.

The thread that connects these digital too is their social nature; these are tools that require you to engage with people and resources outside of yourself, to engage, to participate, to curate, and to communicate. All social networking tools can be powerful ways for students to learn, engage, and network if we are able to help show them how by more fully integrating them into our classes.

 

Sharing

Social networking tools are great for sharing resources. Depending on which platform you choose to use, the sharing can take place very publicly (think of spaces like Twitter or Pinterest) or privately (closed Google+ groups). Social bookmarking sites like Diigo allow for students (and the instructor) to save and share resources, while an app like Evernote provide the opportunity for students to work together on a collection of resources.

 

Collaboration

Sharing can lead directly into collaboration, where students can use tools like Google Docs, Evernote, and Wordpress to collaboratively work together. Files can be shared, edited synchronously and asynchronously, and students’ contributions can often be tracked. Tools like Google Forms and Timeline.js can be used to create collaborative timelines, or Google Maps to create collaborative maps.

 

Exchange

One of the strengths of social networking tools is that they are designed, largely, for discussions, and thus an exchange of ideas. We might have reduced them to “likes” and little hearts, but that doesn’t mean that that is all it has to be. And, if you embrace the potential of social networking tools, you and your students can receive feedback and ideas from a much larger audience, including experts, professionals, colleagues, and fellow students.

 

Creativity

Students often come up with creative ways themselves to use and engage with their prefered social networking tools. This can lead to unexpected places for final projects, but that nonetheless meet the learning requirements of a given course. Assignments no longer need to be solo-authored, static, paper-based affairs, but instead include a wider range of resources, sources, and student outputs.

When thinking about adopting a social networking tool in your course, do a quick google search to see how other educators are using the tools; you will be surprised at how widespread their use is now, as well as the level of engagement these assignments bring out in the students.

These kinds of assignments are more of a challenge to assess, as well as bring up some privacy issues. If you are interested in integrating social networking tools into your class, CELT can help you navigate these issues, as well as help you design a course or assignment that meets your learning outcomes while also maximizing student engagement.


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