Social Media in Education – A Family Photo Album

Last week I gave a presentation at the University of Michigan-Dearborn that was one of those things that didn’t go as planned from step one. The idea of it began as a quiet conversation with a small group of people and just kept growing until they had to switch to a large auditorium. Then it was on the coldest day of the year, and probably would have fit after all in the original room. 🙂 From my point of view, I’ve done better presentations, but folks asked for the slides and I am providing them. Audio was recorded, and when I get access to that, I will see about converting the slides to a slidecast.

I was originally invited by the UMD College of Engineering, so focused much of the presentation explicitly toward engineering examples. The topic was supposed to be how social media can be or has been used in support of education. What I hoped to do was focus on examples of best practices and common uses, then on more unusual tools to match certain educational niches, and finish up with a brief mention of Enterprise 2.0 in academia. I found that educational common uses of social media and the Academia 2.0 marketing stuff used most of the same tools, so I ended up consolidating those two topics.

There were some interesting conversations after the presentation, with one question in particular that I really wish had been raised in front of a larger audience: “All that Facebook and Twitter stuff? I’m not sure I see how all that stuff could be used for engineering education.” BINGO! I’m not sure I see how either. With educational technologies in general, I am a big fan of matching the tool to the task. The big name social media tools (blogs, wikis, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube) tend generally to be especially good at verbal communication skills and supporting teamwork and collaboration. While those are aspects within any educational topic, they are not the primary focus in engineering, although they might be very powerful for promoting engineering as a profession, marketing, and building a community of support or a community of practice. (There are exceptional examples of their use in engineering education, such as the MIT Open Courseware collection in Flickr and Youtube.)

In education and practice, from my point of view as a non-engineer, the domain is more visual, diagrammatic, and focused on data, project planning, materials, structures, concepts, design and more along those lines. I am not myself persuaded that the main stream social media tools are a good fit for engineering education. I was most excited about showing off the niche tools that I think are good fits for engineering such as ManyEyes for data visualisation and Cacoo for online collaborative diagramming. I should have shown them online mindmapping tools. I should have spent some time with online project management and project planning tools. Well, you have to start with the basics, and then embroider from there. I was reluctant to spend much of the presentation on these niche tools since they are more likely to be ephemeral or unstable (in “perpetual beta” is pretty common with niche social media tools).

With all those caveats, for whatever it is worth, here are the slides. My apologies for not including URLs for the sites listed. I just don’t have enough hours in the day.

Social Media in Education, a Family Photo Album:


3 responses to “Social Media in Education – A Family Photo Album

  1. Disclaimers notwithstanding, it was a great presentation, very comprehensive, and your wealth of knowlege is exceptional. Keep sharing, please.


  2. That is very kind of you! I sure appreciate the feedback. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Informática social para la educación « Alusión…Llamada Virtual

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