Social Media as a Teacher
According to Joosten (2012), social media is used to refer to technological systems related to community and collaboration. While a definite definition is elusive, social media is often described as an interconnected system involving multi-media platforms, social networking sites, virtual social worlds, blogs, virtual games, wikis, and other applications. However, social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, MySpace, and blogs are commonly used to refer to social media due to the prevalence of their use by people all over the world. Used interchangeably with terms such as online social networks and social networking, social networking sites are described by Boyd and Ellison (2007) as web-based services that enable users to create personal profiles, build content and share messages and posts by connecting with other users in the system.
The task of defining social media is made more difficult by the fact that it is in an incessant state of change. As developers formulate novel or enhanced features to meet the fluctuating demands of users, social networking sites evolve. Certain social networking sites are designed to serve niche markets or to meet specific consumer needs, for instance, dating sites and applications, sites for posting job opportunities and scholarship sites. The most important aspect of social media is that it allows users to create social networks that can serve formal and informal functions, for instance, family groups and student groups respectively. In order to discern the application of social media in different fields such as education, it is vital to explore different social media platforms that are used by most people so as to determine their social impact.
Facebook-Social Media as a Teacher
Developed in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has grown drastically over the years to become the face of online social networks. According to Salaway and Caruso (2008), various studies on Facebook adoption and use report that ninety-four percent of college students are active users of the social media platform and spend an average of ten to thirty minutes on the site. A more recent report by Harvard showed that approximately ninety percent of undergraduate college students have Facebook accounts (Tess, 2013). With billions of users from all over the world, Facebook plays a critical role in connecting and empowering people, as well as, facilitating communication between individuals even though there has been a downward trend in its active users.
LinkedIn is a social media platform that was launched in 2003 and is utilized principally for professional networking. Users of LinkedIn normally affiliate with other individuals connected to them by work, school or interests while maintaining a list of contacts that users know and can trust. It is imperative to note that the trust factor is a major aspect of LinkedIn due to its high level of professionalism and affiliation to work and businesses, as well as, the provision that connecting with people on this social networking site requires either pre-existing relationship or some form of mutual contact as Papacharissi (2009) denotes. Boasting of millions of users worldwide, LinkedIn continues to be one of the most visited if not the most trusted social media platform (Tess, 2013).
Twitter-social Media as a Teacher
According to Tess (2013), Twitter is a social media platform that is often regarded as a micro-blogging service for users. In contrast to other social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and MySpace, Twitter limits updates and posts to two hundred and eighty characters. This feature makes Twitter a faster mode of communication due to the relatively short posts and updates lengths. As such, while the average blogger tends to make updates every few days, a micro-blogger on Twitter can make updates several times in a day. Twitter is better for its hashtag feature that already witnessed massive success in influencing various social aspects of the society, for instance, the #MeToo campaign that caused a major change in the treatment of the female gender in the society. Apart from being one of the most sought-after sources of trending news in the world, Twitter also impacts other areas of the society such as education through its hashtags rubberstamping its prominence as a social media platform.
MySpace-Social Media as a Teacher
MySpace is one of the earliest social networking sites to ever been created. Co-founded by Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe in 2003, MySpace was considered the leading social media site in 2009. Thus, it can be asserted that MySpace is a pioneer of social networking sites and their impact in terms of connecting people and creating social networks. As Tess (2013) reports, 50% of adult social media users are reported to own MySpace accounts, with the users found to be more likely black or Hispanic, women and people with college experience. As is the case on Facebook, MySpace offers a user-submitted and interactive network of friends, blogs, music, personal profiles, videos, photos and groups.
A blog or weblog is essentially an online journal or platform where various people and contributors engage in conversations regarding a particular focus or topic. Just like other social media sites, blogs enable users to post personal content, comment on other people’s views and connect to other media sites. Nonetheless, blogs have evolved immensely from their previous functions to current functions whereby they are mostly used to post articles and viewpoints of people regarding controversial social issues, photos, news, events and stories. In as much the use of blogs has improved tremendously over the years, so has the controversy associated with the blogs due to the peddling of fake news and exposure of embarrassing attributes of people and organizations. Notwithstanding, blogs play a critical role in fostering social awareness and bringing to light injustices in the society, achievements in various fields such as technology and education, as well as, areas requiring improvement.
Social Impact-Social Media as a Teacher
A body that has been at the forefront of monitoring the impact of social media is the Pew Research Center through the Pew Internet Project. The research organization has studied the utilization of social media platforms since 2007. For instance, as Lenhart et al. (2010) report, the 2010 report by the Pew Research Center on social media use among young adults revealed that seventy-two percent of online eighteen to twenty-nine-year-olds utilized social networking sites which was substantially higher than the thirty-nine percent of users who are older than twenty-nine years of age. Moreover, 7% of young adults maintained a user profile on LinkedIn and 66% on MySpace (Lenhart et al. (2010).
In as much as social media networks have similar functionality, they tend to exhibit discordant organization and social norms. In a comparative analysis of LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites, the research conducted by Papacharissi (2009) found that Facebook was much more publicly open whereby the behavioral norms exhibited in the site are looser compared to other social media platforms. This was evident in how users could leave cues for fellow users, thus, formulating and fostering their own norms. Papacharissi (2009) also confirmed the tight organization of LinkedIn as a more professional social networking site, with less room offered for norm generation and spontaneity. Thus, LinkedIn users did not have to wonder what was contemplated wrong or right on the site. These findings imply that the impact of different social media platforms on various fields such as technology and education varies with the traits or attributes they exhibit. For instance, users prefer certain social media sites for formal communication on crucial issues and other sites for informal communication whereby conversations and reactions are more open. All in all, social media’s influence cannot be shunned by organizations and learning institutions due to its impact on communication, discourses and shaping opinions.
What do social media mean for educators?
The social media platforms or tools elaborated above provide channels through which novel information is being produced. For certain individuals, this can be overwhelming and result in a feeling of information overload. However, according to Cann (2011), individuals typically utilize social media in a manner that employs their professional or social networks to filter the variety of information down to portions that are manageable. Once a person creates a network of individuals with similar interests, he or she can engage them in identifying the sources that are of interest to him or her.
Unlike conventional search technologies that only produced results related to the search terms or phrases placed by the users, social media tools are capable of harnessing the users’ networks to inform them about developments and issues that may not know. Social media platforms are also crucial to providing alternative approaches and strategies to questions based on collective knowledge and experience. Basically, while “search” can provide users with answers only to the questions they ask, social media can provide users with intelligently-filtered information that helps them generate new questions and perspectives in the same way that a face to face communication. Building physical networks that can provide an educator with immense and valuable information can be time-consuming. This is because the process of formulating, curating and filtering useful networks is a skill that requires immense practice (Cann, 2011). Nonetheless, social media tools and platforms offer educators discordant ways of finding people who share similar interests which turn out to be quite useful in fostering research and education outcomes.
Education vastly entails the production, utilization and consumption of knowledge and information. The fields of educations and technology have evolved a number of mechanisms and techniques designed to enhance the transfer of knowledge between educators and students. Examples of these mechanisms include quality assurance techniques such as appointment committees, publication, conferences and journals and peer review (Cann, 2011). More importantly, social media tools and platforms are revolutionizing the way educators perceive the academic research cycle involving identification of knowledge, formulation of knowledge, dissemination of knowledge and quality assurance of knowledge.Social Media as a Teacher
Social interaction and collaboration are applicable to all aspects of the academic research cycle. The field of education has conventionally utilized a vast array of mechanisms or techniques to enhance collaboration between educators whereby they are organized into departments, meet at convocations and conferences and come together to edit books and organize journal articles. Such collaboration requires educators to be located in one place at the same time which is a problem. Some funders have even provided funding to foster educators working together across institutional, departmental and national boundaries. Nonetheless, social media provides new forms of collaboration that are not bound by place, time and access to funding as Cann (2011) points out. While academic correspondence involving identifying and communicating with other educators and students has always happened in the education sector, the development of the Internet and social media has energized this form of correspondence. Also, maintaining one-to-one correspondence with other people though vital may quickly result in information overload. The various forms of communication that characterize social media provide educators with a more manageable way of staying in touch with a vast array of educators and students with whom they share interests.
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