Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Theory through Application: A Study in the Use of Social Media for Teaching

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Theory through Application: A Study in the Use of Social Media for Teaching

Article excerpt

Spurred by rapid development and significant social, cultural, and economic changes, recent years have seen a growing interest in the application of technology to address challenges in teaching and learning. Many of these tools such as Learning Management Systems and Student Response Systems (clickers) have been widely adopted and integrated into the activities of instructors. More recently, the emergence of Social Network Sites (SNS) (boyd & Ellison, 2007) and other forms of social media have been seen as potentially beneficial tools for instructional purposes (c.f. Brady, Holcomb & Smith, 2010; Joosten, 2012; Veletsianos, Kimmons, & French, 2013; Webb, 2009). Commercial social network sites include such well established platforms as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, and numerous niche sites like Pinterest, YouTube, Wordpress, and Tumblr, most of which are widely used by both students and those who teach them. Research suggests that 74% of American adults use social networking sites (Pew Research Center, 2014) and over 85% of undergraduate students use these sites (Smith, Rainie, & Zickuhr, 2011). Among faculty, recent data indicates that most are still more likely to adopt social media in both their personal lives and their non-teaching professional work than they are for teaching and learning activities (Seaman & Tinti-Kane, 2013). However slow, the adoption of social media for teaching purposes continues to rise each year. The somewhat sluggish integration of social media into teaching may be associated with any number of common concerns about these technologies including privacy, intersections of personal and professional identities, assessment, integration with other campus tools, and variability of institutional support (TintiKane, 2013). Further, as Veletsianos, Kimmons, & French (2013) note, there remains a relative dearth of empirical data about instructor experiences using social media in their teaching.

On many campuses, the Learning Management System (LMS) is the most prominent educational technology used for teaching and learning activities. The LMS typically provides an array of instructional tools for delivering course content, conducting assessments, facilitating student interaction, and managing grades. In her report on faculty use of these systems, Morgan (2003) notes that instructors typically utilize content distribution and administrative features of the LMS rather than the interactive and learning tools. Others (c.f. Brady, Holcomb & Smith, 2010; Mott, 2010; Veletsianos & Navarrete, 2012; Veletsianos, Kimmons & French, 2013) have characterized the LMS as an administratively centered tool that often fails to effectively develop the types of engagement that supports student learning. In contrast, SNS are seen as more user-centered in their design and therefore may be better able to foster engagement, community, and interactivity among students. In addition to design affordances, the use of SNS also recognizes the increasingly social and networked world in which learning occurs (Ito, 2008). Social media as sites of learning not only provide students with an opportunity to further develop content knowledge, but also for gaining valuable digital media literacy skills. A number of scholars (c.f. Gammon & White, 2011; Jenkins, 2006; Mioduser, Nachmias & Forkosh-Baruch, 2008; Rheingold, 2011) point to the need for increasing emphasis on digital media literacies and the focused attention that educators should give to cultivating these skills among their students. As Siemens (2004) argues about today's environment, "we need to act by drawing information outside of our primary knowledge. The ability to synthesize and recognize connections and patterns is a valuable skill" (p. 2). Social media tools can present learners with an opportunity both to interact with content knowledge and to build valuable competencies needed to engage in contemporary life.

This article approaches social media use in the classroom as an emergent activity. …

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