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Using Facebook and Twitter as an LMS


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Here is the virtual poster session for my USG Teaching and Learning Conference

Here is the virtual poster session for my USG Teaching and Learning Conference

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  • 1. “If the Mountain WillNot Come…”: UsingFacebook and Twitter asLearning ManagementSystems Virtual Poster Session by Jessica Critten
  • 2. Introduction: Why Social Media in the Classroom?The Pew Internet and American Life Project report that86% of undergraduate students use social networkingsites. Faculty members surveyed by Faculty Focus foundthat 58% of students using laptops in the classroom wereon Facebook when they weren’t supposed to be. Thosepercentages are more than likely not surprising to anyone.The fact is, students are using social media in theclassroom whether we want them to or not. How theinstructor approaches this situation is reflective of theirpedagogy (and there is nothing wrong with that!); Ichoose to explore the possibilities inherent in socialmedia, a communication sphere in which students arealready deeply invested.
  • 3. Why Facebook and Twitter as an LMS?UWG’s Learning Management System (LMS) isCourseDen, for which students (and faculty) haveexpressed dislike. In an interview with the Chronicle ofHigher Education, instructional technologist Jim Groomfinds issue with the traditional LMS as a general idea,arguing that it, “really encloses space, and it encloses thepossibility of the Web.”I agreed; in CourseDen, as with other LMS’s with whichI’ve worked, communication seems one-sided betweenthe instructor and the student (or the other way around.)Class discussions are localized to the CourseDendiscussion board, communication between groupmembers is slow and cumbersome, and projects that aresubmitted for a grade can only be seen and commentedon by the instructor.
  • 4. Why Facebook LMS con’tFacebook in particular, I believed, would “open up” classinteraction to the rest of the world. I hoped that by puttingstudents in these familiar spaces they would feel morecomfortable engaging in a dynamic conversation; the tone ofFacebook is much less intimidating than the tone of a school-sponsored LMS. I also hoped that for assignments thatinvolved multimedia there would be less of a learning curvewith uploading and annotating projects on Facebook thanthere would have been on CourseDen. I envisaged ourFacebook class page as a space where students could show offthe hard work they’d put into projects to their fellow students(and whoever else was interested) and that the quality of theirwork would increase through an on-going process of peerfeedback.
  • 5. Why Twitter as an LMS con’tTwitter is an incredibly versatile tool that Idecided to use conservatively the first timearound, to get a sense of how students woulduse it organically. I thought that this platformwould require more of a learning curve (and Iwas right!) but that it would be valuable as away for students to learn how to use what isbecoming an increasingly important socialmedia tool, not to mention how to thoughtfullyand succinctly express themselves.
  • 6. The Pedagogy, or, “Why are we using this?”:The general consensus about the use of technology is educationis that technology should support pedagogy, not hijack it. Inother words, the question should be: how does one usetechnology to facilitate learning, not how does one learn how touse technology.This is not as much the case with using social media in theclassroom such as I have, where, as Marshall McLuhan famouslynotes, “the medium is the message.” A study of social media isinherently a study of the technology that supports this virtualparticipation because in this figuration, the container becomesintertwined with the content. Cultural theorist Stuart Hall hassaid that there is no meaning without representation; the waywe consume information—the way information is presented tous--informs how we construct our understanding of it.
  • 7. The Pedagogy, or, “Why are we using this?”:Certainly social media is useful in the classroom to more easilyfacilitate conversation and participation—and I haveunapologetically used it as such—but this approach cannot bedivorced from a discussion of the function and impact ofsocial media as a technology and a communication circuit. Assuch, before I used social media in the classroom, I wanted tohave a session to pre-emptively answer the question, “Whyare we using this?” (I’ve never had a student ask this question,but I wish they would!)This is a question we should all ask ourselves before we useany kind of social media: Why are we using this? Why is thisbetter than what we are doing now? How will this expand thestudent’s learning of both the media and the message?
  • 8. Social Media LiteracyI found my pedagogical approach to using social media in theclassroom in Howard Rheingold’s work about participative pedagogyand social media literacy. He has written extensively about this, butarguably the culmination of this work is in his Social Media Classroom,a free and downloadable LMS replacement that integrates socialmedia into the online learning experience.In the article he published in the Educause Review (which was themain inspiration for my discussion of social media literacy) “Attention,and Other 21st Century Literacies” Rheingold underscores theinterconnectedness of technology and content of social media—it isnot enough to know how know the basics of the technology, or howto read and write. To use social media effectively and meaningfully,you have to know how to use both in concert, and you learn this bybecome social media literate. I adapted his five identified literacies(Attention, Participation, Collaboration, Network Awareness andCritical Consumption) to fit the subject of my class (library research)and my population (first year undergraduate students.)
  • 9. Social Media Literacy• I start with defining social media literacy; of the many definitions I’ve found for this concept, the one I like the most is Karen Tillman’s:• “…social media literacy is having the proficiency to communicate appropriately, responsibly, and to evaluate conversations critically within the realm of socially-based technologies.”
  • 10. Social Media LiteracyThe first literacy I discuss is ReputationManagement, which encompasses privacy andpersonal branding. Rheingold discusses this inpassing, but I felt it was important to be talkedabout specifically in my class of first-yearstudents who, I’ve found, have relatively littleconcept (or interest!) of how their onlinepersonas are perceived.
  • 11. Social Media LiteracyThe second literacy I discuss is CriticalThinking/Crap Detection which Rheingold addressesin depth. This literacy especially resonated in myclass, as his approach to deciding whether or notsomething was trustworthy online is the same asour class discussions of evaluating scholarly andpopular resources. This literacy is useful in adiscussion of social media, but also in a discussionof the transferability of research-related skills todifferent media.
  • 12. Social Media LiteracyThe last literacy I discuss—NetworkAwareness—conflates Rheingold’s collaboration,participation, and network awareness literacies.The ultimate goal of our discussion of thisliteracy is to underscore the ways that socialmedia empowers users to become activeproducers of information, and contributors toongoing and important conversations.
  • 13. The Assignments (Facebook)• Students were asked to use Facebook as a discussion board to respond to the following prompt:• Please listen to this episode of On the Media: "The Facebook Show": As a citizen of the nation of Facebook (or "Facebookistan"), what are your rights and responsibilities? In light of our discussion of social media literacy, what does it mean to be social media literate on Facebook specifically? To apply our discussion in a practical way, this week I want you to use our class Facebook page as your discussion forum to 1. Turn our "conversation into an interactive dialogue 2. Be a producer, not just a consumer of information and 3. Think critically about what you say and what you accept as true in social media environments.
  • 14. Facebook—Learning Outcomes• Learning Outcomes:--Students will analyze social media as an informationsource by using social media platforms to create newinformation--Students will evaluate their roles and responsibilities asproducers of information, understanding how social mediaoperates as a public forum• I wanted students to actively and critically reflect on how they create and consume information in social media environments, in keeping with our discussion of social media literacy. I hoped that students would begin to consider Facebook as a type of information source.
  • 15. Findings: Facebook• Despite what I had hoped, there was still an initial learning curve commensurate with the learning curve associated with the use of an LMS; Students were unsure about how to access the course site (which had a friendly URL) and some had a slight difficulty uploading materials to the Facebook page. These issues may have stemmed from the fact that their first Facebook assignment was also their first major assignment for the course, and they were unsure about my expectations and/or afraid to do something wrong. This assignment was also introduced before our discussion of Social Media Literacy, so students did not understand why we were going to use Facebook in the classroom, and may have been uncomfortable with their personal communication environment mixing with their educational environment.
  • 16. Findings: Facebook• I believe the second Facebook assignment was much more successful because it was used in concert with our larger class discussion of social media literacy. Students used Facebook as a discussion board and as a whole posted more thoughtful and in-depth posts and responses than they did in their discussion boards on CourseDen. As per our social media literacy framework, I wanted students to think critically about their branding, their networks, and their roles as producers and consumers of information. As a whole, students seemed to “get it”: One student wrote that she used to Facebook to communicate with her personal networks and used Twitter to express her personal opinions; she recognized that she sought out different networks in different spaces, and both consumed and produced different kinds of different information in different social media settings.• Overall, these two assignments underscored the need to put the educational usage of social media in a pedagogical context—students do not automatically respond to the use of social media because they are familiar with it, or they think it is fun. They want to know why we use it.
  • 17. Tips for teaching with Facebook• Start a new Facebook account for use in your classes, and encourage your students to do the same if they feel uncomfortable using their personal accounts. Do not feel compelled to friend your students on this account, you can easily interact with them on your group or page.• Use a Facebook group if you want students to be able to easily see when your class site is updated. Use a Facebook page if you want your class site to look more professional.• Make use of Facebook as a place to share links, photos, and videos.• Give students a clear idea about your expectations for their work, and set boundaries. The informality of the space can elicit overly familiar interactions.• Facebook is useful (and fun) as a discussion board. Encourage students to respond to prompts in individual posts so their work can be responded to more directly (and threads of responses can get unwieldy)• Encourage your students be proactive in their use of the site by posting questions of their own, or links to relevant information. You want them to drive the content of the page as much, if not more, than you do.
  • 18. The Assignments (Twitter)• Students were encouraged to use Twitter throughout the semester to communicate with group members or me. Their formal assignment was to tweet feedback to their fellow classmates for two group presentations.• Students were allowed to use their personal accounts or start an account for classroom use. We had a class hashtag (#uwglibr1101) that students were supposed to use for all class-related communication.
  • 19. Twitter: Learning Outcomes• Learning Outcomes:--Students will evaluate their roles and responsibilities asproducers of information, understanding how social mediaoperates as a public forum--Students will explore methods to communicate effectively andefficiently using technology• This assignment was designed to help students think critically about how they use social media to communicate. I hoped the experience of creating information on Twitter in a structured educational context would help students express themselves more effectively in social media environments. I also wanted students to be exposed to the possibilities Twitter presents to contribute to important conversations outside of the classroom.
  • 20. Twitter: Findings• As I expected, there was a learning curve for using Twitter in the classroom. Because of this, I built in an opportunity for students to experiment with Twitter in a low-pressure situation before they used it for a grade. As a result, there were no reported problems or complaints with using it in the classroom and when given an option to do a different method of peer-review for the revised presentations, students overwhelmingly chose to use Twitter again.• A fellow librarian used Twitter as a way for students to give peer feedback in a previous semester and was disappointed with the outcome, so I was initially wary to do it in my class. To hopefully counteract too-short, inappropriate, or shallow responses I made sure to give students ample examples of what constituted an acceptable response, and was overall very pleased with the level of constructive and thoughtful criticism the students tweeted. Overall, students performed better when they had a better idea of my expectations, and a better idea of the utility of the technology.
  • 21. Twitter: Findings• For these presentations, students also had to do an anonymous paper peer- review where there were encouraged to go into more detail, and the concise responses they provided on Twitter were just as, if not more, helpful; Students noted that they felt more accountable in their Twitter responses, and Twitter created an almost competitive environment in which they wanted to provide more substantive feedback because they knew their fellow classmates were reading the things they wrote.• As a part of this assignment, students were asked to help revise the grading rubric for the revised presentations. This served as a helpful (if anecdotal) assessment for our usage of Twitter, because in evaluating what they thought made for a “good” feedback tweet, they were also indicating to me what kind of information they thought was appropriate and effective for this medium of communication.• Even though the idea of using Twitter was to reach out to other networks and situate oneself in a larger context of information sharing, students were relatively siloed with their classmates. This is largely a failure in the design of the assignment; in future semesters, I’ll add a requirement that they join an ongoing related conversation outside of the class discussion.
  • 22. Tips for teaching with Twitter• Create an easy to remember hashtag for your course, and repeat it often.• As you would with any assignment, give students a clear idea of your expectations for their tweets--the brevity of the conversations can elicit too-short and shallow responses. Get them invested in giving quality responses by having them help you construct a rubric, or identifying what they think is a quality tweet for an example.• Make your twitter conversations structured by giving students questions to respond to. Remember that your students only have 140 characters, so keep your questions specific and directed.• Use twitter to communicate with your students: tweet reminders of assignment deadlines, give kudos to good work and conversations, post links to relevant videos or articles• Hashtags expire in about 10 days, so find a way to archive your tweets. (I use Hootsuite.)