Social media as an educational tool

This week we were asked to reflect on our use of open-source and social media tools for learning and how useful we felt they were. I use a lot of open-source tools for instruction and a few social media tools. Personally I use YouTube extensively for my own self-instruction and I do seek out information from other experts via social networking sites, but do not find much use made of it in formal education.

I like the audio-visual affordances of YouTube, as well as the free exchange of information, so that’s why I turn to it when I need to learn how to do something. I have used YouTube to find self-help videos for everything from applying pageant makeup on my daughter to fixing my car to wiring a switch in my house to most recently building a chicken coop. I have also located and watched many videos related to my field of educational technology, especially the ones from TED.

I am not sure if my choice of YouTube has something to do with my personal preferences for learning or if everyone feels the same way, but YouTube has a vast number of self-help videos. I doubt they would be so popular if others did not see their value. Khan Academy is finding great success as an educational provider and they got their start with a handful of math tutorial videos on YouTube.

I don’t see much educational value in Facebook. I think that is a site used mostly for social purposes. I know many academic institutions post to it and I am not sure how valuable people find these posts for academic purposes. I know of several social media sites modeled after Facebook which were designed for academic purposes. They permit easy sharing of files and have a library to allow file upload. They provide for announcements, discussions, event postings, and collaboration among group or class members, have mechanisms in place to create and manage both open and closed groups, but still provide the social aspects of a Facebook-like interface, such as the ability to “like” a post.

One such site is Lore.com. I have used that site a lot for social learning in professional development, and I think it works well as a training tool for faculty. Use of a controlled site dedicated to education may also help to alleviate concerns over privacy and security issues.

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