Several weeks ago I spent some time thinking about this very issue as it related to the field of education and our work in schools. I have long contended that social media allows individuals and organizations to foster two important things; communication or conversation and relationships.
I still believe that in many ways fostering conversations and building extended personal and professional networks or relationships remain critical to how schools should look to deploy social media technology at their institutions.
Ms. Lichtenberg points out that she believes that meaning and connection are critical to the foundation of using social media strategically and effectively. She states;
“Meaning and connection — two key anchors of all things social media — are corroding by the day as people’s ability to organize their experiences and find the relevance of their networks declines. Social media, in essence, is bumping up against its own ceiling, no longer able to serve the needs of those living within its walls; and for these reasons, social media as we know it is changing course.”
Powerful words, seems like many of us have just become comfortable riding this ship and now, as is often true with technology, the ship is changing course. There is no question that it has become increasingly difficult to wade through the vast array of social media tools and experiences that are available to us. While Ravit outlines “10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2009” I found 4 items on her list critical to the conversation of social media in education.
1. It’s About People
“People now deliberately seek meaningful connection, self-expression, and a relevant and receptive community. ” Looking at this concept from perspective of the work we do with schools is powerful. How many of us have heard that our extended networks include individuals from across the globe or have attended a conference to have someone say “Hey I follow you on Twitter!” More importantly Ms. Lichtenberg states that “social media is bringing the human element back to all digital interaction.” Consider that statement when working with faculty on designing technology rich learning experiences.
2.Creating Relevant Social Networks
“People will create, join, and seek social networks that enable them to have meaningful and relevant experiences with each other. They will measure their return on investment (time spent, level of disclosure, etc.) in replies, comments, their ability to influence, and the value of their learning. ” Enough said.
3. Connecting with the Rest of the US and the World
“In the next one to two years, the benefits of social media will cross the chasm and reach the mainstream, not only in the US but around the world — especially in community-driven regions like Southeast Asia and countries like Brazil, Russia, and Germany.” Many of us have heard the call that we must create relevant, global and real-world experiences for our students. Exploring the possibilities presented by using social media tools to effectively connect us and our students with learning opportunities around the world will be critical to showing educational value to this new paradigm.
The larger question this raises for me is what is the necessary critical mass needed for academic institutions to begin to rethink their social media/technology strategy and its ability to meet their stated mission? More importantly, can we take smaller steps to provide evidence that social media has the potential we believe it can have to transform the work of schools? If so, what are those steps and how have you demonstrated success?