A Discussion of Social Media within Schools

Note: this assignment is for my Master’s course at K-State, EDCI 718: Learning Technologies, taught by Dr. Rosemary Talab. It was co-authored by Chad Plummer and Joey Heersche, both secondary math teachers. Except the ridiculous stuff; that's all me.

Assignment Description
Read "Social Media and Young Adults", a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  Discuss the pros and cons of social media for teaching and professional development. Give a couple of reasons for or against using them and explain why.

Pew, Ping, and Moms on Facebook
According to the survey, it appears that for our young adults THE Facebook has replaced blogging as the coolest way to express yourself that doesn't involve body art. The results said that from 2006 to 2009, the number of "teens" (ages 12-17) who blog got cut in half, from 28% to 14%. The authors (her, her, him, and her) attribute this to the large number of "young adults" (ages 18-29) and teens who instead choose to use social networking sites, at 72% and 73% respectively.

We agree with that statement.

The statement I'd like to see the Pew-ees restate is this one, highlighted in blue:

(Screencap from Pew study)

30 and older?! Now THAT'S an age group! Forget this 6-year span with the "teens" (12-17) or even the 12-year one with "young adults" (18-29), Pew said let's put the rest of the world into a group called "adults." That's everyone from 30-114 (and Kama Chinen, the oldest living person in the world, turns 115 in a couple weeks so that'll change soon, God willing).

So yeah, I think that figure's a bit misleading... especially considering I saw this the other day on Pingdom:

Image from Pingdom Study of Social Network Users. Note: this image from the Pingdom survey results shows percents as a portion of the whole; whereas the Pew survey percentages were based on each particular age group individually, ie just because 35- to 44-year-olds represent 25% of the social networking population does not mean that 25% OF 35- to 44-year-olds are on social networks. It would be my guess that it's even higher, actually.

The image above shows a quite different result: folks in the 35-44 age range represent a larger portion of social networkers than the younger crowds. Now granted, one could argue that Pew is a better place for survey results than Pingdom, but I'd rather see Pingdom's age groups than Pew's.

The focus is typically on the younger crowds though...
We often look to younger generations to see where technology use might be headed in the future.
Amanda Lenhart, lead author of the Pew study
What does this all mean? Well, it means that there are potentially more moms and dads on Facebook then teens. More teachers than students? Eh, it's hard to tell. But leave it to a bunch of adults/teachers to ruin something cool (that statement was written with a teenage sarcastic slant).

WE Magazine Article, Cyborgs, and Gay Marriage
WE'd never heard of WE Magazine before, "a magazine dedicated to the empowerment of many given to us by the Internet" (source). And this article "10 Futures" by Stephen Downes painted an interesting picture of "future web trends."

What does it mean to teachers? Well, if Stephen's prediction about "holoselves" (future #7) comes true, we could be teaching from the beach:
No person can be in two places at once, of course, but one’s avatar can travel one place while you travel to another, so when it comes time for that meeting in Colorado, you just shift your sensory input matrix to the holoself sitting down at the desk in Denver.
Stephen Downes (source)
I can't see that happening. Is it not enough to be ONE place at a time? Sometimes I shoot for zero actually. It seems Stephen is looking further down the road than we are. Especially with his "cyborgs" future (#10):
The only thing preventing us from merging humans and machines today is that we cannot yet build machines at the scale and complexity required for human-machine interaction.
Stephen Downes (source)
Eh, I don't know... by that argument the only thing separating us from legalizing gay marriage is... well, nothing. And we aren't there yet either.

Masie's Social Learning Survey and Illiterate Adults
The Masie Center revealed the findings from their March 12th poll of "Global Learning Professionals" concerning social learning. Of those polled, 77% either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement "social learning is a learning fad" (see below).
Image from Masie Center survey.
But is that a surprise? If you survey "global learning professionals," wouldn't you expect them to be a little biased? This sounds almost as biased as the National Adult Literacy Survey... please tell me it's read aloud to ensure accuracy...

I'm curious what the 2% have to say about this. Are they like those teachers who will say "ya know, this is the same &%$# thing that came around 15 years ago just with a different name!" I should email Elliott Masie and ask.

Eh, maybe next week.

Here was an interesting result of the survey:
Image from Masie Center survey.

What does it mean to teachers? Well, the "global learning professionals" seem to be fairly in unison with the fact that most learning shouldn't be in the "social learning format." So in terms of us, it appears that we should not see social learning and social networking as an "all-in" sort of endeavor, not even by the end of things. But with some careful inclusion of it into the classroom, perhaps we could settle in around that 21-30% mark where at least 70% of learning still takes place outside of social learning settings.

Pros and Cons of Social Media Use in Teaching, Professional Development
Based on the readings above and our personal experience, here's what we think:

  • Teachers would seem "hip"
  • Teachers could connect to students in a new way
  • Assignments and links could be shared easily
  • Teacher's "statuses" (a Facebook feature) could remind students of test/due dates
  • Class and activity photos could be shared easily
  • An online rapport could be facilitated
  • Students could collaborate without having parents drive them to each other's houses
  • Positive connections made with the touch of a button
  • Photos... privacy issues, permissions, etc.
  • What is a "friend" any way? Where is the line?
  • Students have unequal access to the Internet and the gap is only widening
  • Unequal activity ("you haven't written on MY son's wall recently!")
  • Could be extra work for teachers
  • Where is the line for teachers between school and home?

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