My Issue with Social Media

I don’t understand the appeal of using a blog, twitter or other forms of social media for much of anything.  I have Facebook, twitter and this blog and have used various forms of Social media for years.  I’m starting to waiver however in how useful they are in general.

This could be because of my real life social networks being so strong that if I had a question about any curricular problem or new program in general I could ask someone that I know personally.  I have a lot of connections to people from all fields of study and rely on them to help me with things more than I do asking people on the internet.

There is a growing sentiment of disassociation with Facebook and other sites.  People in their 20s are growing dissatisfied with the interactions and usefulness.  Planning events through Social media sites has become almost useless as people can/will commit to and invitation or decline one at their whim.  There is no accountability for something like this as the thought is that they were just part of giant list of people.  This carpet bombing of communication makes the individuals being contacted feel less connected to the process. This is mostly anecdotal but I feel like this is part of a growing trend.

There was an episode of South Park in the last season that started to make reference to this feeling.

I realize above I singled out Facebook more than others but if you look at the other larger social media sites they all go through cycles of being a young upstart, hitting their stride, becoming bloated shadows of themselves and then people start leaving and not paying attention.  For examples of this you can look towards Usenet, myspace, slashdot, digg and looking at the sentiment in the comments reddit as well.  If we look at the time each one of these the time that it is taking for people to lose interest in these networks is diminishing.

Twitter is an example of a site that is used widely in University but not to interact with students.  Current studies say that there are more user accounts than ever yet almost 80% of them have tweeted less that 10 times.  The rate at which people are using it has diminished significantly over the last 3 years (showing the tool is probably already on the decline for usage/favor with people.  Usage with in the Faculties of Universities use twitter as a real time news source with their colleagues instead of trying to engage students with it.

I know that this class is concerned with trying to put together a smaller student network which is based around a class and not as concerned with the larger trends in social media.  But if we are looking at this from a teacher in the classroom the engagement we see from the students might not be what we think it will be with the tools currently in front of us.  I am skeptical whether it will be worth trying to keep up with the trends of Social media for a little bit more engagement from our students.

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About mrthejud

I'm a teacher at Greenall High School in Saskatchewan.
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26 Responses to My Issue with Social Media

  1. Apostolos K. says:

    You’ve got some very valid points.
    First I’d have to say that you really have to do a learner analysis of your classroom before you decide on ANY tool. I’ve heard a lot of junk about so called “net generation” (aka digital natives) that doesn’t jive with my experiences. You should see what your learners can do, and what they have access to, and then decide on tools. As an educator I think that you should keep on top of trends, being familiar with some of the tools in the arena so that when the need arises, you are able to pick the right tool for the job.

    Now as far as blogs and micro-blogs (aka twitter), yes, there is a huge grave-yard of old accounts that never get updated. Why focus on that? Why not focus on blogs and micro-blogs that ARE updated and that could have potentially useful information? Now, truth be told, these services were not started with academics in mind, so your milage may vary in the classroom, but that doesn’t meant that they are useless. As someone with a language education background (in addition to the Educational Technology background), I can think of a few good uses of blogs and twitter for language learning. Someone in biology and math may not.

    Finally, as far as facebook goes, this is another example of a tool whose milage may vary depending on purpose. I use my facebook account to connect with friends and relatives that live far away, as well as classmates to connect and organize for study groups (I am in my final semester as a grad student in Applied Linguistics), Sure I can answer in the positive in an RSVP and on a whim I can say “no I can’t come” but such is life! People do cancel their RSVPs in real life, and if they don’t they just don’t show up and then they have to answer the awkward “where were you?” I think at the end of the day services like facebook and twitter are social lubricants as opposed to replacements for real life social interaction.

    I don’t go to Fb or twitter to get questions answered – I go to find out what my friends who are 5000 miles away are up to, and I go to twitter to see what other experts in the field are saying about things (after all, I wouldn’t have come across this blog post if I didn’t follow Alec Couros), and hopefully someone finds my blog posts interesting to read and informative – and if they don’t, I don’t really mind since I write for my own edification anyway 🙂 The social connections I make are an added bonus.

    Ideally, your online social networks and your face to face social networks don’t compete, they complement one another, and as far as the classroom goes, a learner analysis should shed some light regarding what to use, when and how. At the end of the day, YMMV (your milage may vary) depending on your own needs and your own usage 🙂

    • Shawna Stangel says:

      Hi Jud,

      I think that it is important to question the validity of what is and is not being used within the classroom. Student success, growth, and engagement are all important facets of what we do on a daily basis. The technology can be a fun tool to use but unless its purpose is understood and used effectively within the classroom it becomes no more useful than a pencil with no lead. A quote that has really begun to have more meaning for me, as of late, is one from Marshall McLuhan, “We shape our tools, and there after our tools shape us.” We need to make sure that the tools we choose are ones we want to be shaped by. Continued luck with your questioning thought.

  2. I wouldn’t worry as much about the specific tools… rather, I’d think of the types opportunities they facilitate and the kind of conversations that they have initiated with regards to education. Whether successful or not, ideas such as social connectedness, persistent online communities, sharing, user-centered technologies, and user-generated content, have made inroads into educational discourse partly because of the adoption of social media. To complicate matters a little bit though, your skepticism is also shared by others. For instance, Selwyn (2007) argues that the kind of learning that occurs on social networking sites such as Facebook “is the learning that would have taken place previously in the corridors, back of classrooms, cafeterias and after-school telephone conversations.” (though you might not be able to find this book, you might find value in Selwyn’s related paper here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/33693537/The-educational-significance-of-social-media-a-critical-perspective). Isn’t complexity a beautiful thing?! 🙂

  3. I wouldn’t worry too much about engaging students with social media until you’ve personally discovered its value. The tools, be it facebook, myspace, twitter or a blog will continue to evolve. The idea of being a connected learner is the key.

    You suggest your need is minimal because of a strong local network. That’s awesome, but not the norm. As well, no matter how awesome your local network may be, given the changes in our world and the simple fact that information and shared knowledge is increasing exponentially at some point your local network will run out of answers.

    You need both. I believe our students will require these networks in order to be successful. As educators it’s important that we first dusciver this for ourselves.

    One final point. The word “social” makes this extra challenging for educators. We’ve not been great at combining social and learning when in reality they’ve always been closely linked. The blurring of these two are asking us to change the way we do school. It’s not easy but I think it’s our duty to make it work.

    • mrthejud says:

      I know that I truly have been blessed with a great group of friends that know about such varied things that it consistently blows me away. For those moments that my friends are unsure of the answers I usually end up going to a forum and finding the answer in old posts there. But I don’t think that I could actually get any of the questions that I have into a tweet or know that the people with the answers to the questions are even on twitter. So far I haven’t seen much usefulness out of most of the tools.

      That being said I don’t think that I share the same sentiment that students will require social networks to be successful. If I look at those around me there are only 3 or 4 people that use social media for their jobs.

      Anyways, that is just me being a digital native/digital curmudgeon. Dean what would you like school to look like so it is more social? Are you thinking more social in terms of student to student interactions in the classroom or in terms of social activism outside of the classroom?

  4. I think the current trend in social media is one of reduction of a mass of social media sites to the most applicable to your use. As new sites emerge there is definitely a draw to see what it offers and as people realize it may not be for them the exodus begins. Also I do agree with the overwhelming, over connected feelings that sometimes come as being saturated with social media. Sometime we need to disconnect. However on the other side are those who choose to stay and be apart of the community for whatever reason they may have. I believe it is those people who draw a use from the sites that will maintain their usefulness. The use of social medis is totally connected to the user. If you want a voice on a topic, to share resources, or ask for assistance in a new area of study social media can provide that. Currently I am using a ning site with my 7th grade students and am finding that the enthusiasm and connetions I am achieving with this social media has far exceeded what I initially thought. Over the past 2 1/2 months students have translated a lot of their social media savvy to school content and research, as a shameless plug check out some of my other thoughts on this issue at http://ccshumay.wordpress.com. I believe it is a valuable resource for connecting people and ideas as not everyone has local community connections equal to those they may find via social networking/ media. I however I biased in this as I have gained a lot from the use of social media especially networking with my long distance colleagues.

    • mrthejud says:

      Cameron I have added you to my Google reader and will try to read as often as I can.

      The people that I have seen that have disconnected themselves from the social media groups are some of the brightest out there. It is in tracking down those people that I find the most learning occurs at least for myself personally. I find more and more its those people who should be sharing but for some reason choose not to.

  5. Chris Hale says:

    For the majority of classrooms, student engagement in learning occurs in a face-to-face model. This has worked for centuries so why should we change it? We sit with people who we talk to and listen to, we share ideas, and we collaborate on learning and showing what we have learned. For many of us, school was about learning how to interact with real, to socialize. But as society has changed, so too must schools and teachers.

    My core group of friends have been in school with me since Kindergarten. But now that these guys live in different cities across the province we connect via email. My wife’s best friend lives in France and they communicate via Skype and email. If we did not embrace these new technologies, we would not likely be in contact or maintain such strong friendships.

    I believe that we must learn how social media can be used as a teaching and learning tool. This does not mean that all social media is bad, but I feel the need to investigate (some would say lurk) how a social media site can benefit my teaching and the students’ learning. While I am currently following a number of educators on Twitter, I did not use my Twitter account for almost a year. Now I consider my Twitter feed to be a vital part of my PLN. I have used blogs to have students effectively demonstrate their learning of a topic and to provide feedback to them (assessment for learning).

    Social networks are not the golden wand of education, but nor should they be reviled as something that should not be part of schools, learning, and student engagement. Will I use social media to change the world? No. But will I use it to further my teaching? Absolutely.

    Chris
    @haledogg

    • mrthejud says:

      Chris, I agree social media is great to keep close ties close despite distance. But the issue I have is outlined in the full episode that the clip above it taken from. It seems that those tools allow us to keep a lot of relationships going that are absolutely superficial and are nothing more than a casual hello here and there.

      I don’t think that social media should be reviled but as I outlined above I really do think that we should be looking at what the actual benefits are for our students. I do agree that social media can be used in some circumstances to further teaching but I just am struggling to figure that out.

  6. Emory says:

    mrthejud –
    Good post. I don’t disagree with some of your skepticism. I’ve also written about the need for balance and some of my doubts regarding the social media. So I am not dismissing the points you make about the use and trends in social networks.

    However I would say that although the tool doesn’t really matter, I believe learning to make connections to networks and using technology to do so are are crucial skills for the future. And while we use social media and teach our students to use these networks appropriately, we have an opportunity to have discussions with students about the benefits and shortcomings of broad networks enabled by technology.

    It is great that you feel supported and work with a strong group around you. But there might be ways networked connections can still benefit you. It was twitter that connected me to Alec Couros and the #eci831 course. Without this social media tool I’d have missed out on the opportunity to be a part of the course and learning I feel I benefited from.

    • mrthejud says:

      You are right Emory the tools that we use online don’t matter. I find it interesting to watch the various sites go through their evolution and changes. The shifts all seem to be very similar in the rise and fall.

      I will try to keep an open mind and follow more and more people to find some voices that help me in my career. Thank you for your post.

  7. Jennifer W says:

    If I could — I want to chat about your final paragraph:
    I know that this class is concerned with trying to put together a smaller student network which is based around a class and not as concerned with the larger trends in social media. But if we are looking at this from a teacher in the classroom the engagement we see from the students might not be what we think it will be with the tools currently in front of us. I am skeptical whether it will be worth trying to keep up with the trends of Social media for a little bit more engagement from our students.

    And I believe 100% that it is fine to be skeptical……in fact, it is wise to be skeptical as long as you remain open to options.

    Social Media is not new to the classroom (students chatted between classes and during classes, notes were passed, phone calls were made, rumors were started, pictures were shared) this is not new. — the fact that it is now on the internet has just truly expanded it beyond just the 4 walls of your classroom.

    And though — I agree with your comment about “engagement” I do believe it is much larger than that.

    Your classroom, your students are no longer sheltered within your 4 walls. As they enter you room, they enter in having being impacted by social media all around them (the phone, the radio, the tv, the ipod, the cell phone, the mp3’s, etc). Keeping up with the trends is no longer going to be an option — it is going to be a necessity. If nothing else, but to provide the voice of wisdom and guidance to your students.

    Your students will be chatting online with people they have never met. It will be a good thing for YOU to set a standard of good practices and wise use within your classroom.
    Your students will be texting. If be beneficial to them, if you show them ways of being wise with tools at their finger tips.
    Your students will be overloaded with information abundance on the internet via the computer and their phones. Your demonstrating ways of sifting through what is accurate and what is false will help them immensely.

    Using social media in your classroom to ‘engage’ your students might not be your main goal or even purpose — I am okay with that. This is something you have to work out yearly, monthly, hourly as you get to know your students year after year after year.
    Using social media in your class to “educate” your students will be a skill you share with them that will make an impact far and beyond your classroom.

    Hope I didn’t ramble to much.
    Jennifer

    • mrthejud says:

      No Jennifer you didn’t ramble too much. I do take time to teach students how to use various social media sites properly (how to set privacy settings etc) or at least I did before most of the social media sites were blocked. I agree teaching students sensible use of the media is essential.

  8. itjil says:

    Everything in moderation… I am not dismissing your concerns, as I have had them too over the years. I’ve found that technology in general (social media or other forms) cannot be the be all, end all of an educational experience. However, it opens soooo many doors that were not available before. I guess I’ve realized this more because I live in a very rural area. Right now I work in a School of Nursing and it helps our students when they can connect and learn more about informatics and other things from nurses in areas that are far more advanced in the tech realm. Many people say that social media and networks are shallow & can’t replace a face to face connection with people. I totally agree, but I think that there are connections to be made that are beneficial to many people that do not have to be on a deep level. I use Facebook for friends and family and to connect with a few colleagues. It works because I see most of them on a fairly regular basis. Twitter is the one professional development tool that I would not give up. The resources available are invaluable to me in my field. There aren’t many organizations in our area that I can use to network in. I love that I can connect with people like Chris Dede and Stephen Downes with a few clicks and I feel like my personal learning network is better for having my online network complement my offline one. It also gives as much as I put into it for others. In fact, right now you are getting opinions of people from all over the place on this issue…that in itself is worth something 😉

  9. quite thought provoking really…but if weren’t for you making your reflections available through social media, we wouldn’t have access to them. So that is already a plus: the fact that you can share and communicate wherever you are. In this case you are in Canada whereas I am in the UK. Long distance, and little effort to connect in this way! 🙂

    I think it useful to challenge the ideas of the enthusiastic. It is very easy to account for the advantages and say how wonderful it all is. However, there is no rose without thorn, and social media can give us exposure beyond what we might be used to. That’s what I kind of gather from the youtube video.
    It is also good that you have very strong physical social bonds, but the majority of people usually find that it is easier to find people who think-alike in a distributed network. And in honest truth bonds of trust can also be established this way.

    But I am not here to convince you but rather to share a story with you: my story.
    I used to use social media in the classroom because it allowed me to take my students beyond the classroom. It put education right back where it belong and that was in context! Furthermore, it enabled me to add purpose and meaning. You see, for almost 5 years I taught English as a Foreign Language in the Portuguese Navy. I taught 18 year olds who had dropped out of high school and joined the Navy because they ‘wanted to launch torpedoes’ (their own words). They came in search of adventure. I also taught senior Petty Officers and Officers who had literally travelled the world. So how do engage these special cohorts? You create tasks that place them in creative and meaningful contexts. The web can help you facilitate that learning instead of teaching in the literal sense! I had the youngest ones creating a tribute site for the last living Naval Aviator: they had to learn their career and life History, they had to research, create texts and edit the first English wikipedia Entry for the Portuguese Navy. It kept them going!
    It was also through the web and my participating in a community called the webheads in action that I improved my teaching skills. Connecting with teachers from all over the world who are passionate about what they do and who care to share and help you gave me strength to improve. So much so that I ended up in the UK working with researchers, championing the use of social media to communicate the knowledge we create. Throughout the journey my peer network has only grown stronger and I am grateful to have them to lean on…whenever I have a question, there is a couple of answers being sent back to me…from the 4 corners of the world.
    So yes, I can only recommend it. But take it easy. Thread the sea of technologies critically and progressive and try to find your way into it. Some things will work better than others. It all has to do with how much we allow ourselves in this world.
    Alec is a great role model. You are in great hands!

  10. noxi says:

    I joined Twitter nearly two years ago and initially left it dormant, but spurred on by an assignment + kindly auto follows by various users I decided to give it a go and never left >> Possibly, like most addicts, due to a positive initial response to the help I needed for my assignment (introducing a local charity to social media).

    What keeps me going back, however, is that it encourages my self directed learning and expanded my areas of interest (design, robotics, visual arts, technology in various fields, ethics…..) making me feel rightly or wrongly that I’m in the loop. My lectures were able to introduce me to some aspects of my course but Twitter gives me insights into topics that aren’t covered as well as illuminating them from a variety of perspectives but most importantly the information is current.

    That being said it is a time drain and in all honesty I haven’t as a result delved as deeply into issues a I would like.

  11. Jenny Darrow says:

    I really appreciate your honesty and your willingness to question the trend in adopting social media especially in a learning setting. That said I want to address two points that you make that I think you should further explore.

    First, good-on-you for having such a healthy and generous face-to-face social network. You’re lucky that this group can provide you the give-and-take necessary to grow as an educator. As Dean mentions above, it’s not the norm and is likely not going to be the norm for your students as they begin to seek alternative view points. Modeling goes a long way here. My face-to-face social network is also generous, intelligent and willing to offer their opinions but they are a small group who often (certainly not all the time) approach a topic from a similar angle. Provincial approaches to topics or problem solving rarely leads to significant change. And boy oh boy does education need improvement! Connecting with others helps tease out under-developed ideas and you simply cannot do this as well or as efficiently with a small pool of face-to-face colleagues. Nurturing a PLN takes time for the full give-and-take to happen but it’s worth it. You owe it to your students to take time to do this. Again, modeling is critical.

    The other assumption I’d like to address is that social media is about consumption. I realize you didn’t actually say this but I think that educators who view social media as a one-way medium is losing out on an opportunity to make learning authentic. As Lucy Calkins “If we asked our students for the highlight of their school careers, most would choose a time when they dedicated themselves to an endeavor of great importance.” Social media is an effective tool when students can solve real world problems and when they can interact with the community outside of the classroom walls. The beauty of social media is that it’s cheap and relatively easy to use. Here are a few examples of simple yet highly effective projects:

    From UMW: http://bavatuesdays.com/marking-digital-history-at-umw/
    From Howard Rheingold: http://www.cjr.org/regret_the_error/bad_news.php

    Good luck to you and keep an open mind 🙂

    • mrthejud says:

      The context that I am approaching this from is that I am primarily the technology teacher at the school and with out having the context of an external curriculum I find it difficult to use social media in my classroom.

      As for my PLN, most of my people that I ask questions of aren’t teachers. I find that when you’re talking to people involved in the industry you’re interested in so much more informative because they can tell you what the students need to know to “make it”. Just like I have problems reading education papers on technology because I find that they are not looking at things in a way that I find particularly stimulating. But that’s entirely my preference.

      You are right that social media isn’t a one way media. I’m just struggling with the benefit that having the two way conversation with the outside world gives our students. The people that I’ve talked to about the subjects that I teach have been mostly self taught or at least at some point had the internal drive to get what they needed to done. I’m very much the same way and am not sure if external context would get me any more interested in what I am interested in now.

      • Chris Hale says:

        I think you have taken a lot of heat for articulating a real concern you have about social media. Of course those who have responded (myself included) have clearly adopted social media tools as a means of extending and focusing or PLNs. But for us that is the point — if you want to learn how to change your teaching then why not consider the benefits. You say:

        with out having the context of an external curriculum I find it difficult to use social media in my classroom.

        You may be surprised that there are teachers across Canada who help you.

        Good luck. The storm should be over soon.
        Chris

      • mrthejud says:

        Thanks Chris. I knew from the get go that I would have to state my position and give it some context and thats awesome. I’m more than happy to have people challenge what I think about things.

  12. Jen says:

    Great post! However, I would disagree that the class is not as concerned with the larger trends in social media. I think that even though we are trying to create a smaller student network, I do think that in order to take anything away from the class that we need to be aware of the trends. Especially, if we are going to apply the concepts we learn to our practices.

    • mrthejud says:

      The reason why I think that the trends in the larger social media sites aren’t as relevant is that the discontent is usually that there are too many new members which dilute the concentration of awesomeness that they are used to.

  13. Lisa M Lane says:

    Feeling carpet-bombed yet? 😉

  14. Stephen Rahn says:

    I am very glad that you have a strong local network, but many of us do not. Because of my job situation, I need to use social media tools to keep up with what’s going on, and I am even writing my dissertation on the topic of how educators are using social media for professional development. I hope you can find a better use for it, but if you don’t, then that is perfectly fine. I am very glad that you have taken ownership of your learning.

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