Thursday, March 22, 2018

Harnessing Social Media in e-Learning-Part II

Social media has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately because of a mistaken perception that people who use the web have that they are entitled to the maintenance of some form of personal privacy. With the recent disclosure of data breaches on Facebook, a major social media platform, much to the chagrin of owners and users, the personal data that they indiscriminately added to their Facebook area, is now out there and now subject to the growing use of predictive analytics. Now through the use of big data collection and access to Facebook data, companies such as Google, Amazon and others can make suggestions to you, unsolicited,  on products that should interest you based upon their analysis of your digital footprints. Note that words such as "might interest you" is not used because the advance of predictive analytics have raise the percentage of probability out of those shadowed areas.


The frightening thing about the above scenario is not that the fact that the breach of the data was huge but that a whole generation of highly connected social media users never thought that such a thing could happen. Despite the fact that most of this youthful generation of users have never known a day in their lives when they were not connected, they still remain rather ignorant and uneducated about how the web works. This leads us to the question:

"If we are going to capitalize on the potential that social media has for e-learning, what steps need to be taken to educate users of social media?"

Steps in Positive Directions

There is no doubt that the attraction to e-Learning has hit "prime time". Statistics bear this growth and transformation out.


Step #1: Change an Entrenched Perception of Social Media

Many of this 21st century generation have never used social media for anything else than to socialize with others online. How entrenched this perception of what social media exists for is again revealed in glaring statistics. If we take an example from the United Kingdom in 2015, it becomes very clear what people perceive as the purpose for social media.

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Another interesting development in the business world is how social media is now seen as a potential tool for digital marketing. It is in this area that outrage has a arisen recently in the media due to the harvesting of data or data mining that is being carried on by big business which sees such an activity as quite reasonable given the fact that effective guidelines or even a consensus of guidelines for data mining of social media has not been established in the "wild west" we know as the Internet. The temptation is too great for them to resist.

So given the entrenchment of these attitudes over the use of social media, how do we change direction so that it becomes focused on effective e-Learning for all? It starts by realizing some of the realities:

  • The reason students do not use social media for purposes of enriching their education is because they have never been taught to see social media in this light. Unfortunately, educational institutions, enforcing the command and control mantra of the typical classroom, have devoted their resources to banning smart phone use, blocking cell signals completely, restricting cell phone use to obscure times of the day rather than seeing mobile devices as another tool to be used to enrich student learning.

  • A second reality is that in order to change the perspective, we need to re-design learning experiences in innovative and creative ways that engage students to use social media collaboratively in irresistibly engaging learning. This flies in the face of prescribed government curriculums which are more obsessed with redundant assessment than creative and innovative instructional design. The great irony here is that if we are preparing students to be effective citizens working in a business world, we are employing a system that runs counter to the needs of 21st century businesses which are placing a high value on innovation and problem solving.

Next post--Step #2

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