Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Implementing and Analyzing Social Media in Higher Education

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Implementing and Analyzing Social Media in Higher Education

Article excerpt

No longer can we think of "online" as somewhere people go, an escape our aside from daily living. Rather, the Internet, and digital technologies more generally, are part and parcel of everyday life. We move seamlessly, and often simultaneously, between digital and physical, acting and interacting with and without physical copresence. It is therefore important to understand how this kind of digital-physical enmeshment plays out in the educational setting, and how it can be harnessed for pedagogical purposes. Indeed, as Daniels and Feagin (2011) aptly state:

A revolution in academia is coming. New social media and other web technologies are transforming the way we, as academics, do our job. These technologies offer communication that is interactive, instantaneous, global, low-cost, and fully searchable, as well as platforms for connecting with other scholars everywhere.

In line with this, we examine the present role of digital technologies in higher education with an eye towards strengthening intellectual engagement.

Specifically, we look at the successful incorporation of social network sites (boyd & Ellison, 2008) in the higher education setting through two case studies. The first case focuses on a student-generated Facebook group that emerged out of a 2011 Sociology of Gender course, and remains active several years later. The second looks at the successful maintenance of a Sociology Department Facebook page. The former demonstrates social media as a tool of pedagogy, while the latter demonstrates social media as a tool in the construction of a larger participatory learning culture (Jenkins et al., 2009). Beyond describing these case examples, we extract from them the components that made them useful for both faculty and students. Specifically, we show how optional participation, active content production, and active comment moderation can foster a rich learning environment and meaningful intellectual community.

We illustrate these two cases through the autoethnographic accounts of authors Farris and Compton, who actively administer their respective course and departmental Facebook platforms. Through these personal accounts and our subsequent analysis of them, we address the specific issues of control, privacy, and participation. In so doing, we confront the challenges and opportunities of social network sites as educational tools. We offer both a practical model and concrete advice for the fruitful integration of social network sites within higher education, emphasizing balance between social connection and professionalism; information availability and information overload; administrator control and student driven engagement.

Social Media in the Classroom

Social media are the set of digital interactive tools used for production, consumption, and sharing of user generated content within a network. These include a range of platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, for example. Social network sites are a subset of social media. These refer specifically to social media platforms on which existing networks connect through webs of personal homepages with the capacity for user-generated content produced by self and others (boyd, 2011; boyd & Ellison, 2008). Examples include Facebook, MySpace, and Google+. Our cases focus on social network sites, and the Facebook platform in particular.

The use of social network sites is highly prevalent and growing. The Pew Internet and American Life project reports that as of February 2014, 74% of all adults on the Internet utilize social network sites. This number jumps to 89% when looking at 18-29 year olds, encompassing those of typical college age. The jump in the statistics is unsurprising, as those of typical college age have been termed "digital natives," in reference to their life-long engagement with digital technologies (Prensky, 2001). Indeed, Bowen (2012) identifies Facebook as the place students "live" and likens educational use of the platform to co-habitational learning communities-containing the advantages and disadvantages of intellectual and personal entwinement. …

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