If you were asked to describe “social media,” how would you define it? Think about it, what does social media mean to you? Terms that come to mind are “community building,” “virtual interaction,” and “relationship building.” If you search the meaning of the word social on the Internet, dictionary.com defines it as “seeking or enjoying the companionship of others” and “friendly, sociable, and gregarious.” Another meaning is “living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation.” Media is defined as “a means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines that reach or influence people widely.”
Social media can be viewed as the next communication method that is comparable to radio, television, newspapers, and magazines. The major difference is that social media provides a multi-directional web of communication. Not only do you receive information, but you have the ability to instantaneously respond. Can this method of communication be beneficial within a college environment? Harvard students created and launched a new social interaction tool called Facebook, which proved to be so successful that it was then expanded to other Ivy League universities. This should be a good indication of the desire that students have to use Facebook, and the value this desire can produce when applied within teaching strategies.
Because college students have a high degree of interest in using social media via mobile devices, educational institutions are beginning to take a second look at how incorporating social media within their teaching strategies can actually improve student engagement and learning. Facebook has several features, each created for a particular purpose. Aside from the usual personal profile, universities are beginning to utilize the potential of networks and groups. Countless universities have already produced a university network page to share campus events, highlights, and photos of those events. The group feature allows university educators to create a private group as a companion tool for their course. For example, a women’s study course may have textbooks, research articles, and group collaboration within their Facebook group page as requirements listed on the course syllabus. This gives students an environment to freely discuss their views on certain topics related to women’s studies. Using a Facebook group such as this encourages students to network outside of their immediate social circle, which ultimately expands their knowledge base potential.
Do not expect students to initially post their viewpoints on the group’s Facebook page. There are those who love to be heard and others who need encouragement. They key is for educators to create a set of goals they want to accomplish within the framework of the Facebook group. As with any learning tool, there should always be a process associated with the tool to ensure success.
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