Archive for July, 2011

Seeing the Big Picture
July 17, 2011

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Second, Life, Google Dogs, and the list goes on.  With so many social media tools to pick from, it could be easy to get caught up in the Internet bubble.

Here are some important facts for educators to remember when considering social media:

Social media is not going away any time soon.  It is a channel where teens and adolescents feel most comfortable communicating with others, and schools should tap into that comfort.  Some schools have attempted to ban social networking sites, and students have retaliated by “breaking into” the sites on their own.  This takes away time that the students could be learning valuable information on the Internet.  Therefore, let the children have the communication channel that will create successful learning.

Social media encourages collaboration.  It produces a channel that invites all students to participate in discussion, allows students to share their assignments, and receive feedback from a teacher. While some students are typically shy within the classroom, the virtual world allows them to speak up and share their thoughts and opinions. This has proven very effective in special education classes. The collaboration establishes relationships between students and teachers that could not have easily been formed in the traditional classroom setting.

Social media establishes interactivity. This is especially important in creating engagement in online classes. Three-quarters of students who have social network profiles are typically wondering why their online classes are not nearly exciting and engaging as the social networks. The future of online classes should provide students the social, real-time interaction that has made the Internet such a dynamic platform.

Ultimately, schools should embrace social media as an essential part of curriculum. Social media opens a set of valuable educational tools which will increase success in each student’s future.

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Collaborate With Google Docs
July 17, 2011

Google Docs is a program that allows you to create and edit many documents at any geographic location and collaborate with multiple people even if they are located 300 miles away. The program has provided a very effective and efficient communication platform for corporations in recent years as they collaborated with many geographically dispersed clients. It has also recently caught on to local school systems that use the program for in-class collaboration.

Long are the days of forgetting to do an assignment. Students can use Google Docs to work on an assignment in class, save their work, and continue working on it when they get home. This is able to happen because Google Docs is not software; it is an online application so all you need is an Internet connection.

Google Docs also saves on a regular basis stating what, who, and when the document was revised. This allows teachers to keep a closer eye on making sure that all members of a group are contributing an equal amount of work. This is especially helpful in college as many professors do not build a relationship with each student and only see the students in lecture twice a week. However, the equal work should not be an issue as the Google Docs collaboration gets students excited and more engaged with an assignment. Google Dogs also facilitates writing as a process by as teachers are able to provide instant feedback and help using the comments feature.

Here are a few simple tips for getting started with Google Docs:

  1. Get all of your passwords and usernames ready to hand to students- this is necessary in order to log into the program.
  2. Keep it simple and easy so students do not become frustrated with the program.
  3. Know your limits. There are limits on the number of synchronous collaborators at a time. There is also a limit of 200 combined viewers and collaborators on a document.

Is Email Dead?
July 17, 2011

With the rise of social media, many professors are beginning to ask an unanticipated question. Is email dead?

Social networks are the new rival to email.  A survey conducted by Pew Internet & American Life revealed that people are not emailing as much as they used to; instead, those people are saving time and utilizing social networking and text messaging. The number of emails sent by adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years old declined 24% in 2010, and overall visits to webmail sites declined by 6%.  The survey discussed how it just is not in teen nature to send an email to those you primarily communicate with on a regular basis- a text message works much easier.

Young people have not developed web etiquette which can ultimately present challenges in the classroom.  Many believe that texting in the classroom is perfectly fine in the case of an emergency while others believe it is the wrong thing to do. Teachers are not quick to disagree with the students. Many feel that texting and understanding various communication channels will increase success in the students’ future. It is important to understand informal language when texting a friend and to also understand formal language when speaking to a teacher.

And while young people prefer text messaging over emailing, email does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Students do actually prefer email for communicating with teachers over any other communication outlet. This might be because an email creates a paper trail which makes it easier for students to keep up with important assignments and deadlines.

Email is still one of the most popular activities on the Internet that over 70% of online Americans participate in each month. And teenagers might like the use of social media because it is cool, but when they grow up they will realize even more the value of email. Just because email is not cool, it will remain useful. While the statistics show a decline of email among teens, those numbers prove to be a bit deceiving; emailing by users of all ages was up 6% in 2010.

Facebook Privacy
July 8, 2011

Teachers are rightfully hesitant to use social media tools in the classroom, especially given the risk of inappropriate content.  However, social networking sites have made their mark and they are not going anywhere any time soon.  Facebook is at the top of social media; it is currently the second most popular site on the Internet right behind Google.  As with all social media, young people are a main demographic and it would be a smart decision to help educate young people using the tools they feel most comfortable with.

Facebook has privacy controls that enable users to manage what anyone can or cannot see. Teachers should build a separate teacher page for their “teacher” presence.  This is to protect students from their personal lives- most students do not need or want to know the dating status of their teacher. Another great tool is for teachers to build group pages on Facebook. They are able to post pictures and videos from class field trips as well as start discussion boards for students to participate. Identity and belonging are important parts of learning.  Therefore, teachers should encourage students to ask any questions they may have about homework or the daily lecture.

However, to ensure privacy, teachers should make sure groups are closed groups so students have to request to join.  The Facebook group should also be linked to any other social media site that is used by the school.

The social networking site provides many benefits as a learning tool.  It provides an inviting atmosphere since Facebook is not any more the teacher’s site than it is the students’. It also enhances engagement; when students are accessing class content more often, it increases the amount they think about it and will be more likely to participate in discussions.

Privacy is a very important concept today, and it is important to make sure that all students feel comfortable and secure using Facebook.

Does the Internet Help or Hurt Homework?
July 8, 2011

According to a Pew Internet and American Life survey, most teenagers say the Internet’s ability to help with schoolwork is one of its best features.  78% of online teens say the Internet helps them to do schoolwork, and 47% say it helps a lot.  Parents agree; 87% say the Internet helps children with their schoolwork.  This is one of the main reasons many families sign up for Internet access.

For instantaneous help, many students turn to instant messaging systems and email to contact peers and teachers. Some teachers even offer office hours using an online screen name for those too lazy to walk to their office. And that is exactly the premise behind the Internet- quick and efficient communication.  Most schools are turning to the Internet as a way to disseminate information about the school, specific classes, and activities. No longer is class sign-up done with pencil and paper but rather all colleges have an online database to perform the function.

The ease of gathering information on the Internet also has a downside.  The ease of researching and using the Internet for homework makes it easy to cheat.  While the Internet makes research and learning easier than ever, some students abuse the power. Copying and pasting is one of the most common ways students cheat followed by looking up answers to math problems and reading online book summaries instead of reading the novel.

Some websites are designed for the sole purpose of facilitating cheating and plagiarizing.  These sites allow students to buy and sell essays.  There are other websites designed to assist students in producing original work; however, even these sites can be abused.

So does the Internet help or hurt homework? Considering teenagers are lazy, the Internet very likely hurts homework habits. Even if one tab is opened to a research project, the other is probably open to Facebook. It is not hard to figure out which tab is getting more focus.

“Second Life” Brought Into Classroom
July 8, 2011

The future of the classroom is not on a college campus.  While most students are signing up for classes in a campus building or online, some schools are now providing the opportunity to take classes in a virtual world.  It is in the virtual world of “Second Life.” More than 60 schools and educational organizations have started using the online program to explore ways to enhance learning.  “Second Life” makes it possible for students taking an online course to develop a sense of community.  This is a key concept considering one of the main characteristics of social media is building a community.

Physics professors feel that “Second Life” would suit their subject material well replacing science labs and videos.  For example, one could use “Second Life” and adjust variables as density of the air, surface area, initial velocities, and even things out of physical control.  This would provide a hands-on experience that would not be possible in the classroom.

Using the virtual world in the classroom could also provide enrichment and understanding, specifically through role playing. For example, rather than visiting a museum five hours away, students could create what they think happened during a specific time period and experience a day-in-the-life of that era.  Not only would this interaction allow students to discover information on their own, but students could also construct multiple meanings.  This is something that could not be achieved through an ordinary lecture.

Video games can also be used to adjust, control, or facilitate social situations not possible in the classroom.  While a student may not feel comfortable talking in front of the class, they may be able to be more socially active within the virtual world of “Second Life”.  This holds particularly true for a special education class at Suffern Middle School.  The teacher of the class was prepared to slowly teach the kids how to use the virtual world; however, the kids learned quickly on their own and through peer-mentorship.  The special education students felt more comfortable using the online program before the teacher. The students even started giving up lunch for library passes.

The virtual world, “Second Life”, does come with a few disadvantages. Some say it can be distracting to have people “flying” above you while trying to concentrate in a classroom discussion. Ultimately, the virtual world has been a huge success in many schools. It does not seem like it is going to be long before the program goes viral and other schools realize the success “Second Life” provides.

Find Dream Job Through LinkedIn
July 1, 2011

In a recent Pew Internet & American life survey, 18% of American adults revealed they use LinkedIn. This number is much lower than those using Facebook and Twitter. Even more shocking, only 6% of those adults use LinkedIn daily, and nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use LinkedIn.

There is a positive side; more and more college students are utilizing the site for professional development after graduation.  Nearly 28% of college students plan to seek employment with the help of the social application, LinkedIn.

Since students are using digital tools to find their dream jobs, it is vital that employers keep up with their image.  Updates, news, and employment opportunities should be updated as often as necessary; companies should also maintain an active voice online so that viewers know “someone is there”.  Employees agree; almost 60% say social networking sites are popular tools to reach Generation Y candidates.

With the right approach, LinkedIn can be very beneficial when searching for a job. Here are some important steps for using the application:

  1. Sign up!
  2. Optimize your profile. A title that clearly represents who you are is crucial, as well as a professional picture.
  3. Optimize your network.  Search for groups that add value to your site and start off by joining one or two.
  4. Optimize your LinkedIn routine. Make it a regular part of your day to be engaged in LinkedIn communities. Maintain your LinkedIn presence.

Case Study:  UPS is a company who has utilized the power of Web 2.0.  The company posts videos and updates about employment opportunities and the benefits of being an employee for UPS.  The company also established an alert system which provides updates to subscribers’ phones. In 2010, the company hired 955 employees through their social media platform.  The CEO describes the decision to commit to Web 2.0 as a “time commitment that you have to be willing to do.”

Social Media Marketing
July 1, 2011

The best colleges and universities all use social media as a way to attract potential students.  According to  Kaplan survey, 82 percent of American universities have set up Facebook pages to communicate with prospective students during the admissions process. The social media page may even have the same information as the school website; however, the social media is a way for connect with students in a destination they are likely to be found.  According to  Pew Internet &  American Life survey, 52% of Facebook users and 33% of Twitter users engage with the platform daily. Thus, colleges are recognizing a powerful tool within social media.

Schools will need to remain active to maintain their online presence.  Schools should participate on the page and reply to comments daily.  This allows schools to connect to the online community to see the types of potential students or parents interested in the school.

Moreover, there are a few exceptional colleges who have utilized social media in new and interesting ways:

Notre Dame: Notre Dame includes their social media policy on the school website. Notre Dame news can be found throughout social media like Facebook and Twitter.  The school even offers Irish Alert text messaging to stay update on sports.

Baylor University: It seems that social networking comes natural for Baylor. The university is the 5th most influential college on Twitter, one of the top 30 social media colleges in the United States, and has over 40,000 “likes” on the school Facebook page.

Mayo Medical School: This medical school has used Facebook to offer a more enriching orientation for new students, causing 100% participation.  Through the social media, students are able to connect and get to know each other in an easier and more fun way.

As social media becomes more popular, Facebook and other social networking sites will continue to become more popular among colleges.