Using Social Media to Foster Learning Connections

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  • 1. Using Social Media to Foster Learning Connections Sharon Stoerger and Dylan Barth DTL Information Session Friday, August 5, 2011
  • 2. Overview
    • Who are today ’s students?
    • Social media in education
    • This study
      • Part I: English composition course & Facebook
      • Part II: Social media & PLNs
    • Findings, conclusions, & implications
  • 3. Who are today ’s students?
    • Prolific tech users
      • Internet accounts
      • Social media users
        • Email?
        • Personal lives – yes
        • Academic lives – not so much
    • Device preferences
      • Laptops
      • Handheld devices
  • 4. Learning in 2011
    • Social interaction
    • Active participation
    • Engagement
    • Communication
      • Blended/online courses
      • Social media solutions?
  • 5. Current Concerns in Education
    • “ Crisis of significance” (Wesch, 2008)
    • Student-instructor communication
      • Use of social media  up
      • 97% of students use (ECAR, 2010)
      • Email replacement? (Roblyer et al., 2010)
    • Lecture alternatives
      • Better learning (Saville et al., 2006)
      • Lecture = least effective (Butler, 1991)
  • 6. Community-peer Networks
    • Greater satisfaction
    • National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
      • Positive educational behaviors
      • Positive view of campus environment
    • Social media
  • 7. Social Media & Educational Theories
    • Edtech theories
      • Behaviorism
      • Cognitivism
      • Constructivism
      • Lacking?
    • Technology  changes
      • New theory needed?
      • Connectivism (Siemens, 2004)
  • 8. This Study: Part I
    • English 102: Introduction to Research Writing
      • Blended course
      • Structured around seven two-week modules
      • 24 students to start, 22 at the end
      • Students divided into two groups that met on alternating days
    • Facebook search “UWMEnglish102”
  • 9. Asynchronous Discussion Forums
    • Four online, asynchronous discussion forums
      • Two in Facebook
      • Two in Desire2Learn
    • Two groups of 12 students
      • Alternated between FB and D2L
    • Discursive forums
      • Discuss scholarly and popular articles
      • Discuss a sample student portfolio
      • Discuss course goals
  • 10. Asynchronous Discussion Forums
    • Required 250+ word initial post and two 125+ word responses
    • Instructor presence purposefully waned as the semester progressed
    • Students could opt-out and join the D2L group or write an equivalent essay
  • 11. Why experiment with the Facebook discussion tool?
    • Meet students “where they live”
    • Expand beyond instructor-driven site to create a peer network for research
    • Coordinate more dynamic and engaging online conversations
  • 12. Findings
    • No qualitative difference between student responses in Facebook and D2L
    • Discussions were no better, but no worse
    • Students did not seem to participate more on the Facebook site
  • 13. Findings
    • Facebook application shortcomings
      • Lack of threaded discussion
      • Lack of gradebook and rubric integration
      • Lack of ability to rearrange forums
      • Lack of “__ per page” function
      • Lack of export function for in-class use
      • Lack of support and sustainability
  • 14. Other Considerations
    • Need to solicit student feedback
    • Experiment with other types of forums?
    • Synchronous, in-class Facebook discussion
      • Michael Wesch’s “The Machine is Us/ing Us”
  • 15. This study: Part II
    • Instructional Technologies
      • 23 students, graduate
      • K-12 teachers, librarians, info techs
      • Fully online
      • CMS
        • D2L
        • Walled garden
    • Social Media
  • 16. Why Social Media?
    • Reach beyond the classroom
    • Interact with “experts”
    • Teacher-centered  student-centered
  • 17. Developing a PLN via social media
    • Find people you want to know
    • Find conversations
    • Expand the surface area – explore!
    • See also Jane Bozarth (2010)
  • 18. Stages of the Learning Experience in a Connectivist Environment (adapted from Pettenati & Cigognini, 2007)
  • 19. The Activity
    • Select a social media tool
    • Started with ~4 resources
    • Expand network – 20+ people/ideas
    • Semester-long project
    • Reflection (Herring, Oliver, & Reeves, 2003)
    • Instructor role = “informed co-traveler” (Dron & Anderson, 2009).
  • 20. Guiding Questions
    • How do students make connections/PLNs?
    • How do students use social media in a course?
    • For an online course…
      • What are the positives?
      • What are the negatives?
  • 21. Data Collection
    • Student interactions
    • Surveys
    • Reflections
  • 22. Social Media & PLNs: Findings
  • 23. Connectivism and Student ’s PLNs
  • 24. Students ’ Network Connections
  • 25. Student Reactions: Positive
    • Enthusiastic (e.g., blogs)
        • “ Technology is not just something that teachers and administrators work into their curriculum when they find the time or expertise needed. It is an essential part of our world today.”
    • Technology = instant access to information
    • Technology  banning
        • “ Schools cannot lead students to believe technology is bad and forbid its use. It’s our job to teach them the educational benefits.”
  • 26. Student Reactions: Negative
    • Non-linear, “uncourse” (Hirst, 2009)
    • The information
      • Overwhelming/fear
        • “ I was eager to try Twitter because everyone else has, so why shouldn’t I…Then, a few days passed and I became literally scared to open the site.”
      • Quality & self-promotion
        • “ I find it hard to believe that so many people continue to follow contributors who so often self-congratulate, plead for support for online awards, or make frequent reference to their availability for hire as a consultant or guest speaker.”
  • 27. Final Student Comments
    •   “ We’re not going to be replaced by machines, but individual teachers will, I believe, be replaced by communities of learners. In those communities everyone will be a teacher and everyone will be a learner. We might not even distinguish between them.”
    • “ I feel optimistic a paradigm shift is happening in education.”
  • 28. Future Research
    • What do students contribute to their PLN?
    • How do students create connections? What is their path?
    • What device(s) do students use to create connections?
  • 29. Conclusions
    • Innovation
      • Risky
      • Students  reluctant at first
    • Technology skills
    • Active learning
    • Social media = learning experience glue
    • Key = listen to your students
  • 30. Thank You!
    • Questions?
    • [email_address]
    • Sharon Stoerger
      • [email_address]
    • Dylan Barth
      • [email_address]