What is Social Media?

Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to cloud-based social media sites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and many others by the billions. While the initial emphasis of social media was placed on producing and uploading media to these popular sharing sites, as the notion of social media has evolved, it has ultimately become more about the conversations started and relationships formed surrounding this media. When users log in to Facebook and Twitter, two of the sites that have the most subscribers and see the most daily traffic, they are not necessarily there to search for and observe media; they are there to see what their family, friends, and favorite brands and organizations are doing at that moment, and who and what they should be following that they have not yet discovered. For users it is all about being tuned in to their social networks and easily making new connections. The sharing of photographs and videos enhances the intimacy of these social sites, allowing users to get a visual of their friends’ daily lives and interests. For education institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution. Currently, one of the most interesting facets of social media sites is the social graph, a concept which represents the sum of all of a person’s online social connections (who he or she is friends with, who likes the things she or her friends are interested in, who among those connections is where, etc.) and create deeper associations between people. Social graphs can be visualized in a variety of interesting ways, but far more interesting is the information embedded within the social graph and what it can tell us. Facebook launched software allowing users to search their social graph in early 2013, and pundits imagined using the search data to leverage likes, check-ins, and photos to make recommendations of not only products, but even people and interest groups to users based on their history and patterns of social media use, along with the actions and preferences of their friends. It is not yet clear how education institutions can best use or interpret the social graphs embedded in their communities, but new tools that allow social graphs to be searched will certainly open the door to new ideas.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • your response here
- helen.carter helen.carter Feb 13, 2013Social Media is going to continue to develop as a significant area of concern for educational institutions. In January this year the Australian Prime Minister announced a protocol to address cyber-bullying (ref. http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/social-networking-sites-cooperate-government-complaint-handling). This coincided with the launch of a cyber education program to address cyber safety, cyber security and responsible online behaviour in Schools. How we engage with social media, use it effectively and safeguard our privacy is going to be a significant issue for educational institutions to address. With ever smarter search systems (ref. Facebook's graph search), how we present ourselves, what information we release about ourselves (intentionally or otherwise) is something that cannot be ignored. Universities will need to start addressing this as a key graduate capability. It is no longer good enough just to say that students don't want us in their facebook sites - this is completely missing the point.
  • - agrei8 agrei8 Feb 17, 2013 Social Media is truly a doubled edged sword. On the negative as Helen above highlights there are concerns of the current use of social media solutions by some in our online commmunities. There are concerning issues that do occur in all social media sites regardless of the privacy and acceptable usage agreements the services get users to agree to. Education on eSafety/ Cyber Safety is always prudent to better education those first moving into this realm to not only protect themselves from unscrupulous users but also to help avoid the unfortunate self created issues on their use and how they present themselves through their social online identity. Social Media services will develop and mature and our understanding on their impact will get deeper around their impact and opportunities that could be leveraged in education.
  • - agrei8 agrei8 Feb 17, 2013 The positive side to Socia Media services is the ability to connect to others in ways never before possible utilising a whole range of media suitable to the service being used. Such media through various desktop, laptop and mobile platforms are accessible through a range of web based or app tools. Many of the social media/ networking sites are expanding many of their service beyond the simple sharing of media content. They are providing tools for the express purpose of connecting and collaborating with others. These services are providing a suite of tools typically accessed previously through disperate unconnected solutions. For example Google's Google+ social network has in the last two years started to provide a range of tools for that could be of great interest for education markets, particularly university level. - Melissa.Langdon Melissa.Langdon Feb 21, 2013Users can create circles of other students in the same subject for easy contact management and communication. Students or the university themselves could create communities for the subjects for the enrolled students. Google+ Hangouts could provide particularly useful allowing students to employ online web conferences for up to 10 users. Agreed. - Melissa.Langdon Melissa.Langdon Feb 21, 2013 Hangouts also incorporate apps for additional functionality e.g.desktop sharing making these more than simple video conferencing. Add in the Hangouts on Air functionality Hangouts can be recorded and played on demand via Youtube. Such social networking sites are providing a plethora of functionality that can be leveraged off by not only the students but the university themselves for their own ends.
  • Although social media has been around for a long time, I find that Australian institutions are slow to use it effectively to market programs, promote students' works and connect with other national and international institutions.
  • How social media impacts higher education over the medium to long term is difficult to gauge. Given that education theory strongly supports the idea of the co-construction of knowledge with peers, the avenues provided by social media to allow this to happen are numerous. It is not difficult to see that learning management systems are becoming more like social media while some social media platforms are introducing tools that might allow them to operate more like learning management systems. What the outcome of this will be in terms of content delivery, instructional design etc. are hard to see but there is no doubt that social media is driving fundamental change to the ways in which teachers communicate with students and students communicate with each other. - Jason_Lodge Jason_Lodge Feb 17, 2013- mike.keppell mike.keppell Feb 21, 2013
  • - katreynen katreynen Feb 17, 2013 Students in schools have been completing projects at home via Facebook groups and chat for years now and so will certainly be doing this at university as well. Where attempts have been made to build customised, private social networks to do this via LMS's, students have reported that they have gone back to Facebook where they can continue to drop in on social chats whilst spending most of their time on the study. This blend of social interaction and formal learning seems to reflect the experience of groups of students at university as they switch from learning in lectures, learning from each other in cafes and still catching up on their social lives. As tools emerge, such as those mentioned by agrei8 will no doubt also be used by students to share knowledge.
  • I'd like to counter that social media use is not the problem behaviour, but bullying is the problem behaviour. danah boyd's work on cyberbullying shows that new technologies don't cause bullying, they just become a new outlet for it. Once we get Google Glasses, those will be used for bullying too... If the report does include a caution around this topic,it should be qualified.[- j.seitzinger j.seitzinger Feb 21, 2013]

2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - agrei8 agrei8 Feb 17, 2013 The idea that there is more than simply how universities may leverage off social media/ networking. The informal use by users/ students of such sites in the formal learning. Their ability to access tools, content and even other users/ students/ experts in informal ways could be leveraged by universities even if they if is not done in formal ways to augment the learning environments and services to students.
  • The line between the 'social' and the 'academic' is becoming increasingly blurred. Students have over time been reluctant to have universities, lecturers and tutors 'invading' their social media space. There are some ethical issues yet to play out in this space. - Jason_Lodge Jason_Lodge Feb 17, 2013 - Melissa.Langdon Melissa.Langdon Feb 21, 2013 Agreed. - katreynen katreynen Feb 17, 2013 "Like!"
  • I don't know that the description needs to linger so much on social graphs. [- j.seitzinger j.seitzinger Feb 21, 2013]
  • A more specific function of social media is that they allow learners (staff and students) to create powerful personal learning networks to direct and focus their own learning. Much work on this has been done by Alec Couros (http://scholar.google.com.au/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&cluster=323370331956834351)
    and Ilona Buchem, Graham Atwell and Ricardo Torres Kompen in this literature review of the topic (https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fjournal.webscience.org%2F658%2F1%2FPLE_SOU_Paper_Buchem_Attwell_Torress.doc)
    . It is an ongoing area of research by participants of the Personal Learning Environments conference http://pleconforg. Though not a concept widely adopted in HEIs or by HEI staff, but as the familiarity with social media increases, I anticipate we will see this shift.- j.seitzinger j.seitzinger Feb 21, 2013

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • - agrei8 agrei8 Feb 17, 2013 Social media/ networking sites can be utilised as an addition to exhisting university services in either formal or informal ways to augment the teaching and learning dynamic. For students particularly challenged by the 'tyranny of distance' or those who need to be able to learn flexibly throughout the day or night due to other commitments. Such tools allows for many to learn anywhere/anytime.
  • In terms of creative inquiry (and possibly out of scope for this report) I would point out the potentially disruptive work of the 'Open Notebook Scientists' such as Jean Claude Bradley et al- fang fang Feb 19, 2013
  • International academic and creative collaborations between institutions.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

I am currently working on a Networked Academic project (enabled by iPads) within the Faculty of Health at Deakin University to familiarise faculty with social media and their potential for building powerful PLNs.- j.seitzinger j.seitzinger Feb 21, 2013
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