Saturday, May 10, 2008

Integrating Social Media and Education, the students are already there

Julian Baldwin has written up a series of interesting thoughts about social media from his perspective. Go and spend some time reading them, they're not very short but it's worth your time if you're interested in social media.

I personally connected with the second article, where Julian talks about how social media could be used in furthering education.
"There are many benefits in asking students to maintain academic blogs. If a student writes an essay they can password protect it. Instead of using paper their essay can be graded online. Essays can link to references, which makes it easy for teachers to verify sources and prevents students from making up sources they never used or excuses for why they don’t have it but claim to have it done."

I just finished taking a class at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) called Social Implications of Information Processing(class website). During the duration of the class I posted some of homework assignments from it. The assignments were all approximately one page responses to a prompt question.

This was not required for the class, nor did I really mention the website to the professor or the teaching assistants. I used the idea of posting to this blog to require myself to write articles that I thought the public audience of my blog would enjoy.

I also kept all of the articles very current, sometimes writing in response to things I had read online earlier that day. This, along with being able to link to the sources directly in the articles, I felt really increased the quality of the assignments.

Julian also mentions an interesting idea about letting the general internet using public determine a portion of the grade.
"Students could add work to YouTube, Flickr, Helium etc. to let the masses rate it and determine a small portion of their grade."

This idea however, I am wary of. I believe that students would tailor their assignments to entertain the internet populace, instead of the academic community, and the community in their field of research. This was not a large problem for me, as I'm a student in computer science, and the few people who read this blog would (I feel) be interested in the topics I was given.

One problem many of the students had with the class was that 30% of the grade was determined by "class participation", which was largely determined by awarding up to 3 points per class, 1 for each time you raised your hand and was called on. I (along with some of the other students) immediately realized there was not enough time to include all of the approximately 50 students in a 2 hour class. That's 150 times students would have to talk, more than once every minute.

That being said, it would have been much more reasonable to have class participation be awarded for participation that occurs online. We did use the forums of the Blackboard (wikipedia) system, however, this was used mainly for completing and turning in assignments, and not much collaboration occurred there. For the record, I am not a fan of the MyWPI implementation of Blackboard.

Here's the list of all the assignments I posted online, along with the grade I received on them.

There was one other paper I wrote which I did not put online, it was written quickly and I didn't feel the quality was up to par. It was about "exploitation of the intellectual property right legislation".

Putting my work online certainly kept me responsible for actually doing the work, and as a side effect, also started me actually writing on the blog. I would love to see social media become more integrated with education. If we can make it easier for students to communicate with each other, I truly believe it would benefit everyone involved.

P.S. Alternate title for this post was "Social media in your classrooms, enhancing your communications"

blog comments powered by Disqus