Social Media in Education

As a social media researcher, I have been asked a few times to give a lecture about social media in education. Usually my focus is on the business use of social media, but it is always very inspiring and fruitful to look at things outside your own box.

I just heard from a teacher at a vocational institute that the students had asked the teacher to use Facebook for communication between the teacher and the students. Facebook may be the best example for communication purposes, but for the educational purposes the experts recommend more collaborational tools like wikis or blogs.

You can find a lot of information and experiences in Finnish on Sometu web site. And an interesting interview about a Finnish language teacher Annukka Kosonen and her experiences about social media in education is published on the web site of the Finnish language teachers’ association. I liked especially her comment about getting off the class-room centricity with social media.

In the famous YouTube video clip “Social Media Revolution 2” it is said that already now, some universities are giving students tablets instead of the books. Very interesting! A friend of my daughter is currently living in Shanghai and waiting for the next autumn when she will receive an own AirBook from school. The teaching tools really are changing. I thought that this is something that is happening only in the “big world”, but just recently I heard that high school students in a little town near us, Pedersöre (Western Finland, Ostrobothnia) will get iPad tablets. Wow!

When thinking about the technical solution or tool to be used in education of children, we should pay attention to the natural ways the children are using internet. For example for adults, the email alerts are “must-have” properties in social media services but for children they are not so necessary because I think that the children use more instant messaging services and chat. This picture by Intomobile could be from our car when I’m driving my daughter and her friends to the gymnastics class and they are transferring music to each other’s phones via Bluetooth.

Recently, we were visiting at my brother’s family and I noticed that my niece (5 yrs) and nephew (3 yrs) were pretty smart iPad users. I was wondering how to learn to use it myself, and when I was still thinking about how to teach my daughters 5 years and 10 years of age to use iPad, they were already using it and playing Angry Birds on the sofa with their cousins. Mom was left far behind on the technological adoption curve.

Eliina Puijola, a consultant at Hienosäätö Coaching, has a service called “Yritysleikki” for schools. The idea is to make children to design their products according to the target group and create marketing material based on this. My elder daughter participated this with her class and was very excited of this project and enjoyed a lot about learning new thing this way.  Marita Reinikka, one of the teachers in this school, published a wonderful YouTube video (in Finnish) about this project – look how great products and radio campaigns the children have created!

There are challenges for using social media in education in every level. With children we have to be aware about protecting their identities and help to use Internet and social media in a safe way. On the higher educational level, the challenges are different. One of the biggest challenges is knowledge sharing among researchers. There are researchers who never share anything else than published articles, and then there are people who like to collaborate with others, search for co-operation partners in research, etc. Today I was very delighted about receiving an invitation from a research colleague Johanna Janhonen to join a group of Finnish social media researchers on LinkedIn.  

In every professional group, there is a lively discussion about personal identity vs. professional identity and people are wondering if they should accept students or customers as Facebook friends. Creating a Facebook page is a nice way to handle this challenge. A German and Swedish teacher Hanna Graeffe is an excellent example of a teacher who has created a Facebook page where she can communicate with her students and other people interested in these languages. If there is a need for a more closed communication with the teacher and the student, they could create also a closed Facebook group, the content of which is visible only for the members of the group.

When people ask about a good example how a Finnish school is using social media, I always recommend them to see how Sataedu uses social media. There are Facebook pages, student blogs, wiki pages, etc. By the way, the public organizations using social media in Finland are listed at sosiaalinenmedia.org, there you will find a lot of Finnish examples.

I was giving a lecture about social media and education for Learning in Networks group at Tritonia EduLab (University of Vaasa) last month. There I became aware of the great project: Nordic Knowledge on the Web. I hope this project will go on, and the knowledge of the researchers will be shared more and more.