The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2 trailer, Lionsgate Entertainment
I've been on Facebook for such a long time now that it's difficult to remember how puzzled I was by the site when I first encountered it.
In 2008, I was invited to Berlin to be a part of an internship program that brought together Russian and American journalists. The purpose of the project was to allow us to make connections in journalism with people working around the world.
One of the gals in my program, Alina Dain, who was going to be a student in the Medill School of Journalism that fall, started a private Facebook page for the Americans in the group. The purpose of the page was to introduce ourselves to one another before we got to Berlin as a way of breaking the ice.
I remember how technologically inept I felt when I first created that account. Forget participating in VR media like Second Life or even the new VR programs associated with movies like "The Hunger Games." None of those technologies were even on my radar at the time.
Now, I use Facebook all the time. I've even used it to add a written component to a German class I taught at Boise State several years ago.
How I Am Bridging the Knowledge Gap With Social Media
However, I still feel like I am at a disadvantage. I know how to use the site sort of, but not to its full advantage. I still often approach social media with a what's-the-point attitude.
That's one of the reasons why I signed up for EdTech 543 - so that I would force myself to learn how to really use social media. And of equal importance, to learn WHY people use social media.
This week's assignment in EdTech 543 went a long way to answering this question for me. It asked us to find 10 case studies/ examples of how teachers were using social media sites in the classroom.
My focus for this is a bit different than many, given that I don't actually teach right now. I use social media to build an online audience for my writing and my books. However, I'm finding that this exercise was still useful.
I bring this up because the article used the analogy of buying and selling to explain what students were looking for when they attended college. These were needs to be filled. The article called the needs "jobs." In other words, students "hire" colleges to fill a certain job in their lives.
Here's how the article explained it:
Jobs to be done hinges on the fact that consumers “hire” products and services to do a specific job in their lives, and that they are motivated to do so by particular circumstances. For example, in an early study of how to boost milkshake sales, a consulting team found that a fast food chain sold a disproportionate number of milkshakes first thing in the morning to busy commuters. These customers “hired” milkshakes to occupy them while in traffic and to keep their stomachs satisfied until lunch.
To get these jobs done, realistically the commuters could have hired all sorts of products: bananas, bagels, or even the radio. To outcompete not only other fast food chains’ milkshakes, but also all of the other foods and experiences that might fulfill commuters’ jobs, the fast food chain needed to design milkshakes that nailed this particular circumstance and job experienced by the commuter.
Moreover, this job differed dramatically from the job parents were hiring milkshakes to do in the afterschool rush to provide children with a fun snack. The take away? Once a business understands the range of jobs that are causing customers to hire solutions, it can redesign its products around those jobs to garner far greater, more predictable returns.
Why would I bring this up? Well, it seems to me that educators are now hiring social media sites to fill jobs they need done. That was the overarching conclusion that I came to as I researched this week's assignment. I really wanted to understand what I might be missing as I interact on social media. What kinds of jobs were/ are my social media followers looking for me to fill? Am I doing that? I believe based on what I've learned that we "hire" social media to fill jobs as well.
Ways That Teachers/ Students Use Social Media
Before I go into my findings for this week's assignment, let's go back to my example at the beginning of this post. My friend, Alina, who started the social media page for our group in Berlin, "hired" Facebook to be a platform on which we could introduce ourselves. It proved effective, given the fact that none of us lived near each other. All of the participants were from different parts of the country and world.
Continuing on with this analogy, here's a list of some of the ways in which educators and students have hired social media to do a job that needed to be done:
• To draw out socially shy students • To teach students how to be safe and media savvy before they enter the "real" world • To learn about the reach and the power of asking for help on social media • To teach students how to write persuasively • To facilitate class discussions • To align themselves with a certain fandom • To form smaller, more focused groups for the purposes of studying for exams and completing projects • To make professional connections for the classroom and beyond • To provide a platform for a class that offered places for content creation as well as forum participation
Below, you'll find the 10 studies/ examples that I found to complete this assignment. Because I straddle both the professional and educational worlds in my social media uses, I took five examples from commercial sites like Mashable and five from more scholarly sites like ERIC. My findings are labeled as subheads.
1. Learning to Avoid Social Media Dangers
One student in Don Goble's broadcast technology class discovered her voice on social media/ blogging. Nadia - that's her name - got a comment from Australia on her blog: She's one of the quietest kids in class.
Mr. Goble's contention is that teachers should use social media in the classroom and beyond because someone needs to teach them how to be good media consumers. His argument? Would you give a 13-year-old the keys to a Ferrari if said 13-year-old had no driving experience? Would you further just send them off and say, "Have fun?" Probably not.
These students already have mediated lives. Pretending that they don't is a recipe for trouble for them online. Mr. Goble contends that they need to be taught the powers and the dangers inherent in using social tools before they leave school. The idea being that once they leave school, they have many of the digital tools they need to make good decisions online. In other words, they have some idea of the power of their digital footprint and some effective ways in which to create the kind of footprint they'd like to leave across the web.
As with Mr. Goble, Kristen Wideen uses social media in the classroom and for the same reasons: She wants to teach students to make mistakes on social media while their still under the protective cover of the school.
She integrates blogging and social media into the lessons they're working on in class. One recent experience saw students petitioning their principal for a bird feeder for their class. The students wanted to put the feeder outside their observation window.
Miss Wideen's students suggested that they write persuasive letters on their blogs and then tweet links to their blogs to the school principal's Twitter account.
Their requests netted more than they originally asked for. The Director of Education gave them a bird feeder and seed. One of the students also made a bird feeder and Miss Wideen's mom donated a hummingbird feeder to the class.
Students in her class learned that word gets around quickly on social media. They also had the opportunity to discuss how powerful media like Twitter is and how using these media incorrectly can backfire.
One instructor from Penn State University - Anna Divinsky - found that the students in her course broke off into sub-groups based upon age, interests, etc. She had created a MOOC on iTunes about art and has had almost 60,000 students go through the course.
These students interacted on Twitter, Facebook, and other sites. Divinsky said that the students organized the smaller groups themselves. In that respect, the students mimicked study groups that students in traditional classrooms create. They "get together" to study for tests, to create projects, etc.
I never thought of Google Calendar as a social media tool, but after reading about how some professors use it, I would agree with their assessment that it is.
One instructor, Don Simmons, shares his class calendar with the parents of his middle school students. The fact that you can color-code events helps parents and students see at-a-glance whether they have tests, when homework assignments are due, etc.
I've started doing something similar with my roommates. Being that I used to live on my own for many years, the calendar has proven both useful and challenging…useful because I know when my roommates will have people over. Not so useful when I forget to add stuff to the calendar because I'm not used to checking in with people like that.
Nicole Kraft, an assistant professor at Ohio State University, is in the latter group.
Kraft and members of her class would tweet to journalists at media outlets like CNN, Esquire, and TIME. This eventually led to video conferences between some of these journalists and Kraft's classroom.
This is similar to how my friend, Rachel Thompson, wound up being quoted on CNN and developing a connection with that news outlet.
6. Finding Out Which Social Site Bore the Most Fruit
One study on ERIC by Moran, Mike; Seaman, Jeff; Tinti-Kane, Hester explained in detail how college professors use social media to teach.
While the study mentioned plenty of ways in which instructors used these social media, there were some stats that I found especially useful. For example, more than 90% of instructors/ faculty use some sort of social media as an instructional tool.
Of these media, Facebook was the most visited. Facebook also attracted the most comments and interactions, something I've also found to be the case in my personal dealings with social media. People who are on Facebook seem to be the most engaged in terms of that.
Because I use social media for different purposes than most people in class, this finding was particularly useful. I have found that Facebook is the most useful in terms of building my mailing list. Having this study confirm this was extremely helpful. When people comment, you get an insight into what they're thinking and why they've interacted.
The other thing worth mentioning is that despite some of the inherent dangers of using social media in the classroom, most instructors thought it was worth the risk to use social media in the classroom.
These concerns included:
• A lack of privacy - 70% of instructors cited this as a reason. • A lack of student integrity - 80% of instructors were concerned about this.
I had this concern as well when I used Facebook in one of my German classes. However, I worked around that concern by using the privacy setting on our social media page.
A study by George VanDoorn and Antoinette A. Eklund found that using Facebook in the classroom had many advantages.
Students with slow Internet connections benefitted from working on Facebook because of the textual nature of the social media site. It didn't matter if their connection was slow. Their message eventually went through. This may be one answer to how to bridge the digital divide.
The ready-made technology of Facebook also provided an advantage for teachers and students. Many of the students involved in the study were already familiar with Facebook. This allowed them to sail into the lessons without having to learn the ins and outs of the technology.
It is also maybe for that reasons that the majority of the students felt comfortable contacting the classes' lecturer. Most reached out to instructors at least once a week.
The findings of this study echo my experience of having book-launch parties on Facebook. I can interact with the people who are invited and chat with them and answer questions in real time. I don't have to look for an alternative method of communication, given that most people that find me are on Facebook already.
Wikis have a number of benefits as Kevin R. Parker of Idaho State University and Joseph T. Chao of Bowling Green State University point out in the article, "Wiki as a Teaching Tool."
I'm most familiar with the Wikis that people create in the fanverses of "The Hunger Games," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Star Trek," etc. These tools provided an at-a-glance answer to many of the more obscure facts about these fictional worlds.
What I appreciated about this article was that the study cited some of the ways in which teachers were using Wikis. Being a person who relies on creativity for a living, this proved to be invaluable.
Here are some of the ways that people used Wikis in their classrooms:
• Students got ideas for projects • The Wiki provided a place for summarizing their findings • Teachers could use the Wiki to provide students with class materials, including the class syllabus • Class members could brainstorm on the Wiki • The format encouraged group authoring
It seems to me that Wikis on platforms like Wikia are a good way to attract like-minded participants. One of the challenges that teachers face is not having the technology know-how or the time to create a class website. Wikis provide a platform for this as this study shows.
On a side note, I think that's what I have been going after on my Wonderland Cafe project - a place to interact with fans that was easy to set up.
This study by Bahar Baran explains the benefits and pitfalls of using Facebook for educational purposes. While it does encourage student to participate in social-media learning due to students' familiarity with the site, it still has its drawbacks. Namely that students still mostly see it as a social site and not an educational site.
The study was conducted in Turkey, which provided some useful information for the researcher: In that country, Facebook as a teaching tool is largely untapped. By tapping into this population, the researcher could learn more about the types of challenges these students faced when using a site like Facebook.
In this respect, the students in this research project probably felt like I did when I first got introduced to Facebook by my classmate. The findings of the study also echoed my experience in that at the conclusion of the study, the students used Facebook far more than they did before.
This study, conducted by Dr. Richard Light of the Harvard School of Education further explains how working in groups on social media facilitates learning. He cites social constructivism in the study as a means to explain why students are more successful when they study together.
According to Light's findings, the ability to study in small groups is the biggest determinant of student success. Students who were part of groups felt engaged in their studies even if they were only able to study with their group once a week.
Social media also added a "cool" factor to student engagement Light found, encouraging them to form CoPs. It also appealed to students who were socially conscious. These students held the idea that "many minds are better than one."
I think for me the challenge has always been finding out how and where people use social media. I was always kind of a loner in school, and so forming social groups has always been a challenge. That being the case, forming groups on social media has also presented its share of challenges. This was true of my experience with my Berlin group and in some respects, it still is true now, though I've gotten better at using social media for, well, social purposes.
However, I've learned some things from this week's assignment that may be useful moving forward. Hopefully, some of this information will mitigate the challenges that I felt when I first jumped onto Facebook and that I face even now.
For people to have meaningful interactions on social media, they often need a push or an excuse. Making social media a part of class participation is one way to do this. Students have no choice but to meet people. This has happened to me quite a bit since starting this class.
You can also align yourself with Twitter chats and other social media connections for a similar effect. I remember reading about how the Tim Palin, the President of Marketing for Lionsgate, the studio that produced "The Hunger Games" movie franchise used social media to promote that franchise.
Palin said this in an interview with the New York Times about marketing online, "When you do something online, you can actually gage the reaction immediately. And people participate in the dissemination of that."
It's like setting little online brush fires throughout the campaign and fanning those flames throughout the campaign. This campaign set up communities that people could join. In other words, they invested in the movie like it belonged to them.
And with the release of "The Hunger Games" VR program, it looks like fans will be even more invested in the process.
This was a good lesson for me… One that the girl heading to Berlin all those years ago is still taking in.
Although the educators that I looked at in my assignments this week also used social media as a replacement for tools like pencils and papers - think blogging and Wikis - I was most impressed with the instructors who used it to connect with like-minded individuals.
Baran, B. (2010, July 13). Facebook as a formal instructional environment. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01115.x/full
Barnes, B. (2012, March 18). How "Hunger Games" built up must-see fever. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/business/media/how-hunger-games-built-up-must-see-fever.html
College, J. D. (2013, November 04). More professors using social media to teach. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/02/social-media-teaching-tool/3377929/
Fee, J. (2013, August 18). 7 Ways teachers use social media in the classroom. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://mashable.com/2013/08/18/social-media-teachers/#_yHdsrs7gkqN
Fisher, J. F. (2016, October 14). Are students buying what schools are selling? Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.eschoolnews.com/2016/10/14/are-students-buying-what-schools-are-selling/
Leicht, G., & Goble, D. (2014, October 1). Should teachers be using social media in the classroom? Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/social-media-valuable-tool-teachers/
Moran, M., Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2011, April). Teaching, learning, and sharing: How today's higher education faculty use social media. ERIC. doi:10.1075/ps.5.3.02chi.audio.2f
Parker, K. R., & Chao, J. T. (2007). Wiki as a teaching tool. WikiEducator. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://wikieducator.org/images/5/58/Wikiasateachingtool.pdf
Risen, T. (2015, July 16). Bridging the Digital Divide. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/07/16/obamas-connecthome-aims-to-bridge-digital-divide
Tomaszewski, J. (2012). Study suggests benefits of social media in the classroom. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/study-suggests-social-media-has-place-in-classrooms.shtml
VanDoorn, G., & Eklund, A. A. (2013, March 14). Face to Facebook: Social media and the learning and teaching potential of symmetrical, synchronous communication. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1005279.pdf
Wideen, K. (2014, July 6). Using Social Media as a Teaching Tool. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from http://www.mrswideen.com/2014/07/using-social-media-as-teaching-tool.html