Today I’m still in Birmingham for the Jisc Digifest 2017 (#digifest17). I’m based on the EDINA stand (stand 9, Hall 3) for much of the time, along with my colleague Andrew – do come and say hello to us – but will also be blogging any sessions I attend. The event is also being livetweeted by Jisc and some sessions livestreamed – do take a look at the event website for more details.Â As usual this blog is live and may include typos, errors, etc. Please do let me know if you have any corrections, questions or comments.Â
Part Deux: Why educators can’t live without social media – Eric Stoller,Â higher education thought-leader, consultant, writer, and speaker.
I’ve snuck in a wee bit late to Eric’s talk but he’s starting by flagging up his “Educators: Are you climbing the social media mountain?” blog post.Â
Eric: People who are most reluctant to use social media are often those who are also reluctant to engage in CPD, to develop themselves. You can live without social media but social media is useful and important. Why is it important? It is used for communication, for teaching and learning, in research, in activisim… Social media gives us a lot of channels to do different things with, that we can use in our practice… And yes, they can be used in nefarious ways but so can any other media. People are often keen to see particular examples of how they can use social media in their practice in specific ways, but how you use things in your practice is always going to be specific to you, different, and that’s ok.
So, thinking about digital technology…Â “Digital is people” – as Laurie Phipps is prone to say… Technology enhanced learning is often tied up with employability but there is a balance to be struck, between employability and critical thinking. So, what about social media and critical thinking? We have to teach students how to determine if an online source is reliable or legitimate – social media is the same way… And all of us can be caught out. There was piece in the FT about the chairman of Tesco saying unwise things about gender, and race, etc. And I tweeted about this – but I said he was the CEO – and it got retweeted and included in a Twitter moment… But it was wrong. I did a follow up tweet and apologised but I was contributing to that..
Whenever you use technology in learning it is related to critical thinking so, of course, that means social media too. How many of us here did our educational experience completely online… Most of us did our education in the “sage on the stage” manner, that’s what was comfortable for us… And that can be uncomfortable (see e.g. tweets from @msementor).
If you follow the NHS on Twitter (@NHS) then you will know it is phenomenal – they have a different member of staff guest posting to the account. Including live tweeting an operation from the theatre (with permissions etc. of course) – if you are medical student this would be very interesting. Twitter is the delivery method now but maybe in the future it will be Hololens or Oculus Rift Live or something. Another thing I saw about a year ago was Phil Baty (Inside Higher Ed – @Phil_Baty) talked about Liz Barnes revealing that every academic at Staffordshire will use social media and will build it into performance management. That really shows that this is an organisation that is looking forward and trying new things.
Any of you take part in the weekly #LTHEchat. They were having chats about considering participation in that chat as part of staff appraisal processes. That’s really cool. And why wouldn’t social media and digital be a part of that.
So I did a Twitter poll asking academics what they use social media for:
- 25% teaching and learning
- 26% professional development
- 5% research
- 44% posting pictures of cats
The cool thing is you can do all of those things and still be using it in appropriate educational contexts. Of course people post pictures of cats.. Of course you do… But you use social media to build community. It can be part of building a professional learning environment… You can use social media to lurk and learn… To reach out to people… And it’s not even creepy… A few years back and I could say “I follow you” and that would be weird and sinister… Now it’s like “That’s cool, that’s Twitter”. Some of you will have been using the event hashtag and connecting there…
Andrew Smith, at the Open University, has been using Facebook Live for teaching. How many of your students use Facebook?Â It’s important to try this stuff, to see if it’s the right thing for your practice.
We all have jobs… Usually when we think about networking and professional networking we often think about LinkedIn… Any of you using LinkedIn? (yes, a lot of us are). How about blogging on LinkedIn? That’s a great platform to blog in as your content reaches people who are really interested. But you can connect in all of these spaces. I saw @mdleast tweeting about one of Anglia Ruskin’sÂ former students who was running the NHS account – how cool is that?
But, I hear some of you say, Eric, this blurs the social and the professional. Yes, of course it does. Any of you have two Facebook accounts? I’m sorry you violate the terms of service… And yes, of course social media blurs things… Expressing the full gamut of our personality is much more powerful. And it can be amazing when senior leaders model for their colleagues that they are a full human, talking about their academic practice, their development…
Santa J. Ono (@PrezOno/@ubcprez) is a really senior leader but has been having mental health difficulties and tweeting openly about that… And do you know how powerful that is for his staff and students that he is sharing like that?
Now, if you haven’t seen the Jisc Digital Literacies and Digital Capabilities models? You really need to take a look. You can use these to use these to shape and model development for staff and students.
I did another poll on Twitter asking “Agree/Disagree: Universities must teach students digital citizenship skills” (85% agree) – now we can debate what “digital citizenship” means… If any of you have ever gotten into it with a troll online? Those words matter, they effect us. And digital citizenship matter.
I would say that you should not fall in love with digital tools. I love Twitter but that’s a private company, with shareholders, with it’s own issues… And it could disappear tomorrow… And I’d have to shift to another platform to do the things I do there…
Do any of you remember YikYak? It was an anonymous geosocial app… and it was used controversially and for bullying… So they introduced handles… But their users rebelled! (and they reverted)
So, Twitter is great but it will change, it will go… Things change…
I did another Twitter poll – which tools do your students use on a daily basis?
- 34% snapchat
- 9% Whatsapp
- 19% Instagram
- 36% use all of the above
A lot of people don’t use Snapchat because they are afraid of it… When Facebook first appeared that response was it’s silly, we wouldn’t use it in education… But we have moved that there…
There is a lot of bias about Snapchat. @RosieHare posted “I’m wondering whether I should Snapchat #digifest17 next week or whether there’ll be too many proper grown ups there who don’t use it.” Perhaps we don’t use these platforms yet, maybe we’ll catch up… But will students have moved on by then… There is a professor in the US who was using Snapchat with his students every day… You take your practice to where your students are. According to global web index (q2-3 2016) over 75% of teens use Snapchat. There are policy challenges there but students are there every day…
Instagram – 150 M people engage with daily stories so that’s a powerful tool and easier to start with than Snapchat. Again, a space where our students are.
But perfection leads to stagnation.Â You have to try and not be fixated on perfection. Being free to experiment, being rewarded for trying new things, that has to be embedded in the culture.
So, at the end of the day, the more engaged students are with their institution – at college or university – the more successful they will be. Social media can be about doing that, about the student experience. All parts of the organisation can be involved. There are so many social media channels you can use. Maybe you don’t recognise them all… Think about your students. A lot will use WhatsApp for collaboration, for coordination… Facebook Messenger, some of the asian messaging spaces… Any of you use Reddit? Ah, the nerds have arrived! But again, these are all spaces you can develop your practice in.
The web used to involve having your birth year in your username (e.g. @purpledragon1982), it was open… But we see this move towards WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, these different types of spaces and there is huge growth predicted this year. So, you need to get into the sandbox of learning, get your hands dirty, make some stuff and learn from trying new things #alldayeveryday
Q1) What audience do you have in mind… Educators or those who support educators? How do I take this message back?
A1) You need to think about how you support educators, how you do sneaky teaching… How you do that education… So.. You use the channels, you incorporate the learning materials in those channels… You disseminate in Medium, say… And hopefully they take that with them…
Q2) I meet a strand of students who reject social media and some technology in a straight edge way… They are in the big outdoors, they are out there learning… Will they not be successful?
A2) Of course they will. You can survive, you can thrive without social media… But if you choose to engage in those channels and spaces… You can be succesful… It’s not an either/or
Q3) I wanted to ask about something you tweeted yesterday… That Prensky’s idea of digital natives/immigrants is rubbish…
A3) I think I said “#friendsdontletfriendsprensky”. He published that over ten years ago – 2001 – and people grasped onto that. And he’s walked it back to being about a spectrum that isn’t about age… Age isn’t a helpful factor. And people used it as an excuse… If you look at Dave White’s work on “visitors and residents” that’s much more helpful… Some people are great, some are not as comfortable but it’s not about age. And we do ourselves a disservice to grasp onto that.
Q4) From my organisation… One of my course leaders found their emails were not being read, asked students what they should use, and they said “Instagram” but then they didn’t read that person’s posts… There is a bump, a challenge to get over…
A4) In the professional world email is the communications currency. We say students don’t check email… Well you have to do email well. You send a long email and wonder why students don’t understand. You have to be good at communicating… You set norms and expectations about discourse and dialogue, you build that in from induction – and that can be email, discussion boards and social media. These are skills for life.
Q5) You mentioned that some academics feel there is too much blend between personal and professional. From work we’ve done in our library we find students feel the same way and don’t want the library to tweet at them…
A5) Yeah, it’s about expectations. Liverpool University has a brilliant Twitter account, Warwick too, they tweet with real personality…
Q6) What do you think about private social communities? We set up WordPress/BuddyPress thing for international students to push out information. It was really varied in how people engaged… It’s private…
A6) Communities form where they form. Maybe ask them where they want to be communicated with. Some WhatsApp groups flourish because that’s the cultural norm. And if it doesn’t work you can scrap it and try something else… And see what
Q7) I wanted to flag up a YikYak study at Edinburgh on how students talk about teaching, learning and assessment on YikYak, that started before the handles were introduced, and has continued as anonymity has returned. And we’ll have results coming from this soon…
A7) YikYak may rise and fall… But that functionality… There is a lot of beauty in those anonymous spaces… That functionality – the peers supporting each other through mental health… It isn’t tools, it’s functionality.
Q8) Our findings in a recent study was about where the students are, and how they want to communicate. That changes, it will always change, and we have to adapt to that ourselves… Do you want us to use WhatsApp or WeChat… It’s following the students and where they prefer to communicate.
A8) There is balance too… You meet students where they are, but you don’t ditch their need to understand email too… They teach us, we teach them… And we do that together.
And with that, we’re out of time…Â