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Published April 19, 2010

The Social Media Invasion of our Colleges

Social media are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives and affect the way we deal with others, with businesses and with institutions.

In a sense, social media are the efforts from online collaboration to build a collective intelligence.

What are social media? This is a hard question to answer right now since they are currently evolving as this article is being written. One constant in their evolution, however, is that these activities use the principles and technology associated with Web 2.0 which foster the exchange of data between users and therefore a panoply of collaborative efforts. In a sense, social media are the efforts from online collaboration to build a collective intelligence.

Aware of the increasing popularity of this phenomenon and it's growing impact on teaching and learning, I recently wrote a document which gives a rudimentary portrait of social media in the colleges (in French). This document is in the reference section of the IT Representatives' Network. In order that all IT Representatives and partners can contribute to the development of this information, I have used a social media Google Documents. If it was to be uniquely written by myself, this document would never be as complete as it is, and as a group effort, it will continue to evolve.

With social media, we are no longer passive observers or readers. We have become publishers and even authors. In various platforms, we post data from other sites on our pages, write commentary on subjects that interest us and invite guests to publish in our pages. We manage information, we create it and we share it. I've interpreted this idea in the chart below:

Diagram of Interaction with Social Media and Websites - Illustration made by Michel Vincent and translated into English by Norm Spatz

There are a number of different social media. A professional networking tool is quite different from a Wiki even if they are both a social medium.

Social media specialists certainly have found other ways to classify the field, but I have identified five major categories which in my opinion take the resources being used in the colleges into account.

  • Document Sharing
  • Social Networks
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Collaboration
  • Syndication

Social Media Network Divisions - Illustration made by Michel Vincent and translated into English by Norm Spatz

The is my representation of these divisions. Groupings are juxtaposed. Probably, friction will develop where zones of interest intersect as similar services come to be offered by neighbouring resources.

There are obviously platforms not shown in this image, but according to my research, these are the most popular in the Quebec College Network.

Why take a look at social media now? One reason is their incredibly growing popularity. Most importantly, they are in great use by the members of Generation C who are entering our colleges and will become increasingly important parts of our student population as the products of the secondary school reform enter cegep. These students are well acquainted with the approach by project, problem-based approaches and other forms of social constructivism. Social media are some of the tools in these phenomena.

Is the lectern a thing of the past? For some, perhaps, what the lectern represents will become an unknown pedagogical approach. Although our role as a teacher is not necessarily to use wikis or Twitter, it behooves us to at least understand the technological environment in which our students are evolving.

In your opinion, what applications are best suited for a pedagogical environment? Are they a passing fad or a profound change in our academic environment?

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    Elizabeth Charles wrote April 19, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    This is a terrific article. Thanks for categorizing and clarifying what is meant by these different media. It's so important that we start using shared characterizations to build up a collective understanding of what they mean. This way, we can begin to figure out the constraints and opportunities they provide for teaching and promoting learning.

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