Category Archives: Social Networking

Sharon Guan

Learning by Messaging: Social media apps and the classroom

On the first day of class, I asked my students, “How many of you have a smart phone?”

Everyone raised their hands.

“Great!” I said. “Take them out—if they aren’t already—because you will do a lot of messaging in this class. Go to and download the app to your phone.”

After the students created their accounts, I gave them my phone to scan the bar code for the class group I created within the app.

Within 15 minutes, all fifteen of them were in the Chinese 104-101 WeChat group. After the setup, I began explaining what WeChat is, and how I’ve used it in previous classes.

WeChat is a mobile messaging app developed by a Chinese company called Tencent Inc. According to DMR, as of Aug 22, 2015, there are 800 million active users. It’s user-ship has surpassed Twitter and continues to grow rapidly and globally. It is threatening the global social media market and has been referred to as the potential “Facebook killer”.

In my Chinese language class, I use WeChat to serve the following purposes: Continue reading

Jan Costenbader

What do they look like?

Before I enter the classroom each quarter (sometimes virtually), I always wonder about what my class looks like. Sometimes there are more women than men, sometimes it is a very diverse group, sometimes there are adult students, but one thing is certain, every year the incoming freshmen look younger and younger. Certainly, this is not because of my own advancing age, but seeing their youthful faces embarking on a new journey in today’s technological age, leaves me with the question, “what do they look like technically?” As more and more of our courses rely on online components, you have to ask yourself, “are our students prepared to deal with the challenges of D2L, online quizzes, and video captured lectures?”

Every year, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA conducts a nationwide study of incoming college freshmen. The study conducted by UCLA [1] includes survey responses from almost 166,000 freshmen representing 234 institutions. For the first time in 2013, the survey added two questions about the respondents’ use of Open Educational Resources (OER) such as Khan Academy, MIT’s OpenCourseware and other MOOC’s. These two questions were in addition to the recurring questions about using the Internet for research, social media use, video games. So, what does the incoming freshman class look like technically? How prepared are they to use the online tools? I found some of the results quite surprising. Continue reading

Daniel Stanford

My Oversharing Adventure: Travel Notes from the Land of Millennials

I give you my word that by the end of this article, you won’t feel bad about yourself. You won’t feel behind the times because you refuse to tweet course announcements, or follow your students on Instagram, or friend them on some new app that tells you what they had for breakfast.

I care about your feelings because I understand your pain. I was born in one of those years that generation X and millennials have agreed to treat as a demilitarized buffer zone. Part of me feels a kinship with those who came before me. I share their concerns about online privacy. I’m a little worried about those NSA data bunkers and the fact that kids today don’t return phone calls. I even hesitated to list the year of my birth in this very public blog post, which is probably a sign I’m not a true millennial.

On the other hand, part of me longs to burn my gen-X passport and defect to the reckless frontier that is the Republic of gen-Y. To learn what I’ve been missing, I recently embraced my dual citizenship and spent a few weeks living as a native among the millennials. Within days, I went from shaking my fist at Miley Cyrus, with her twitpics and her twerking, to sharing artsy photos of melted ice cream and Vine videos like a true gen-Y artiste. I also created a profile on Vizify, which took my yawn-inducing data from LinkedIn and transformed it into a slick collage of photos and infographics. (For more on that, view the video below.)

I like that my Vizify profile peels back the professorly veil just a bit without leaving me overexposed. Continue reading

Reliving History, 140 Characters at a Time

In her October post, Emily Stone talked about using Twitter as a way to engage with her students. It allowed her to create a conversation and foster a community of sharing. These types of interactions are really Twitter’s bread-and-butter. But I’m more of a passive Twitter user. My last tweet was January 31, 2010: “really dropped the ball on this 3-d glasses thing.” (Apparently the Super Bowl halftime show that year included a 3-D component. Unfortunately I didn’t have the glasses. I cannot tell you if the show was good or not.) So don’t follow me. I won’t tweet anything. I just don’t find that I have anything really useful to say, and I’m uncomfortable “broadcasting” my thoughts. But I do log in to Twitter every day. Instead of sharing, though, I use it as another form of information gathering. I have subscribed to several feeds related to my field of study (Human-Computer Interaction/User Experience). I find it incredibly efficient and much less daunting than the 1000+ unread articles in my Google Reader, where I used to try and read articles. I think Twitter has incredible value for others who are more like me. For teachers who may not quite be ready to tweet their assignments, they too can incorporate Twitter in a passive way. Aside from subscribing to tweets related to their field to help stay current, teachers could simply point students toward some of the more engaging Twitter feeds. I found several examples re-creating historical events through “live-tweeting” (or rather the simulation of live-tweeting), which is simply Twitter’s way of reporting on key events as they happen.

Here’s a round-up of some of the more interesting historical Twitter feeds:

World War 2. Each day they tweet about things that happened on that day in 1939. It will continue for the same duration as the war: @RealTimeWWII

Extensive Civil War tweeting curated by the Washington Post. It has some live-tweeting and some quotes from famous people: @CivilWarwp/tweeting-the-civil-war

Live-tweeting the final expedition (1911) of polar explorer Robert F. Scott: @CaptainRFScott

Live-tweeting JFK’s presidency (run by the JFK Library: @JFK1962

Another WW2 live-tweet, using documents from the British National Archive and letters and memos from the UK war cabinet. This feed isn’t very accessible, though, as it just tweets links to where you can download the document in question but it is kind of a hassle to do so, especially if you are accessing Twitter on the go: @ukwarcabinet

Live-tweeting 1948 Arab-Israeli War—it’s from the Israeli point of view: @1948War

These could easily be turned into writing assignments. TwHistory helps teachers create assignments in which their students live-tweets historical events. I’m not sure how much traction this has, but it’s definitely interesting adoption of technology into education.

And for creative-writing teachers, I think one could also make the case for tweets becoming the next haiku. The 140-character limit for tweets is perfect for providing structure much in the same way as the haiku’s 5-7-5 syllabic construction.

There are also accounts that tweet out facts or tips each day. For example, someone named John Cook maintains several Twitter accounts that tweet math- and computer-science-related facts and tips, and @writing_tips posts daily writing tips. Who doesn’t need a reminder on some basic grammar every now and again?

At best I think these Twitter feeds could enhance students understanding by incorporating a technology that they use every day into their learning. At worst, they are just entertaining. And for right now, I’m really happy to be entertained by the World War II tweets. I’ve got six years to go!

Emily Stone

Getting my Tweet Wet

I’ve had a Twitter account for several months, and aside from occasionally checking my feed to see what’s for dinner @RachaelRayShow, I really do not use it. In preparation for teaching my online Educational Technology class, I’ve been thinking about how I might use Twitter to enhance participant engagement with the material and with one another. The prerequisite course to this course includes an activity where students create a Twitter account and think about its possible uses in education. I would like to build on that foundation and use Twitter to promote a virtual community for sharing EdTech-related resources and trends, as well as ideas (or even logistics) about the course and course material.

I started by creating a new Twitter account that will be for professional/teaching purposes only,@EdTechEJS (so no Rachael Ray retweets on this one). I then started following a few Educational Technology–related users and groups, including some folks who run the program for which I teach.

Next I decided that to facilitate students’ access to the Twitter feed, I should embed it on our course site. When discussing this with a colleague, she suggested that instead of just embedding the @EdTechEJS feed, I create a hashtag for everyone in the course to use and display a feed of tweets containing that hashtag. With this method I am not the only person contributing to the feed; it is a collaborative effort, which is more in line with how Twitter is meant to work. The hope is that students will tweet questions or comments about the course material, share useful resources they find, and benefit from reading classmates’ tweets.

While searching for “create twitter feed from hashtag,” I came across this fantastic free tool called TweetBlender. TweetBlender creates an embeddable Twitter feed widget, and you can specify which “sources” will be displayed in the feed (usernames, hashtags, keywords). With this tool, I was able to create a feed that will display all of my tweets, as well as any tweet containing the course hashtag and the program hashtag. As I become more familiar with Twitter and what type of information I’d like to appear in the feed, I will add more sources. It may even make sense to add weekly topics as keywords for the feed as the topics come up in the course.

I am excited to see how this Twitter experiment goes. I really hope it makes the course site more dynamic and student driven. One challenge with using a Learning Management System is that most of the content must be posted by the instructor. Students have the discussion boards, but that is usually their only forum for contributing. The Twitter feed allows students to add content to the course site instantly and in a highly visible way. This endeavor should also force me to become more familiar with using Twitter effectively and better able to consult with faculty who would like to incorporate Twitter into their own course.

Dee Schmidgall

Building Social Media for Students: A Waste of Time?

Perhaps it’s the end-of-summer’s-approaching ennui or plain old cranky, middle-aged contrariness, but as I witness the barnstorming enthusiasm for Facebook-like social media on display at any given online-learning conference and contrast that with the drumbeat reports of Facebook’s declining popularity, I can’t help but think that some of us are living in a state of denial.

I think our intent is good. We want to serve our students, we want to make it easy for them to communicate, we want to create a socially cohesive learning environment, and we want to give them the tools they need to succeed. We think we know our students; we think we know what they want. So let’s build our own social sites!

I’m afraid it’s wasted effort for the most part. Here’s why.

First, we’re replicating existing services and efforts. My department has ruminated for months about a social site for our adult students. Well, surprise! Students who wanted a social space have already created their own Facebook group, demonstrating again the truism that individuals can and do move faster than committees. Will these students abandon the group they created for a university-branded one? I’m betting not.

Second, we’re too late to the game. Facebook is hemorrhaging members, as the cool kids move on.  Twitter is the heir apparent; fast, flexible, and mobile. It certainly has great potential; see James Moore’s excellent presentation at . And as mobile devices become more ubiquitous, you’ll see more and better apps like MobilEdu, created by Terribly Clever Design and recently acquired by—wait for it—Blackboard.

So what does Blackboard know that you and I should? When to recognize that the game has changed. Blackboard realized they couldn’t design a better mobility app than the whiz kids from Stanford and stopped wasting time trying to. They’re free of denial and playing to their strengths.

We should play to ours.

Joann Golas

Facebook and Digital Content Rights

In working in online education, I find myself trying to keep abreast of not only the new developments in the online world, but also in what technologies students are currently using, both inside the classroom and out. A few years ago, I asked a group of students to teach me about Facebook, since it seemed to be all the rage and I knew nothing. I found that no student wanted to talk with me about it.

So, I went and created a Facebook account for myself and as soon as the students realized I was on Facebook, it was all of the sudden cool and okay to talk with me about it. I soon was friended and poked and had messages left for me on my wall. Over the years, as Facebook took off in popularity not only with students but with the general population as well, I have found that there are benefits to using such a social-networking site as well as pitfalls.

At the moment, I use Facebook to keep in touch with not only current friends and colleagues but also with former colleagues and former classmates and to keep up with current events, of all things. I have encountered some great dialogue on a posted news item from a friend that led to conversations that may not have otherwise happened.

One such news story appeared not only on Facebook but many other news outlets as well. This story was about Facebook.  Facebook decided to quietly change their Terms of Service (TOS) and thought it wouldn’t create any uproar. The TOS used to say that when you closed your Facebook account, any claim to content that Facebook could execute on your material would expire. So, if you closed your account, your photos that you posted would not be able to be used by Facebook.

The new Terms of Service, however, eliminated the notion that when you deleted your account, Facebook’s claim to your content disappeared.  The new verbiage points out that user content will survive termination of your Facebook account and can be used by Facebook however it sees fit, including sublicensing it, if they choose.

I was very happy to learn that this change in the TOS created an uproar in the Facebook community. I have often heard of stories of students who place material online, thinking that it would be private, and a prospective employer finds it and chooses not to extend a job offer or even an interview to the student because of the content that was posted on Facebook. The concept of what is appropriate to put online and who has what right to use said content is important for students and all Internet users to learn.

It appears that in the end, the collective, social group won out and Facebook announced that they are reverting to the previous TOS. Perhaps the group mentality of social networking actually did some good this time around and got folks thinking about their content and their privacy online. Here’s to hoping this prevents someone from posting inappropriate spring-break pictures while looking for that first job.

Melissa Koenig

Facebook Makes 40 the New 50

There was an article in the Red Eye on Friday, October 19th about young people not wanting their parents or “creepy old people”—which includes anyone over 40—on the social networking site Facebook. (If you’re not familiar with local Chicago media, the Red Eye is a popular free newspaper. Although it’s unseemly for a librarian to be caught with one, the paper is the perfect length for a relaxing commute read.) There are a number of things that I found interesting about this article, especially as we in higher education examine ways to connect with students where they already are.

The idea that people over 40 are considered “creepy” in the Facebook world begs the question, “How do students really feel about their professors wanting to network with them?” Do students really want their professors in their social networks? Are professors and students really “friends?” I would argue that like everyone else, students need spaces where they are not “at school” the same way those in the working world need spaces where they are not “at work.” In that context, it’s easy to see why crossing these lines can lead to feelings of resentment about the infringement.

This is not to say that social networking technology can’t help build meaningful communities in the online environment. However, I would argue that what we really need to be pushing is for solutions that are integrated into the course management system (whatever that might be) or that were developed for an educational purpose. The focus should be less on what service is being used (e.g. Facebook) and more on what the technology does.

Providing social networking tools as part of the student’s classroom experience (be that online or face-to-face)—but not as part of their social experience—makes a lot of sense. For example, Ning is a free Social Networking tool that faculty can use to create a social network for their class (or perhaps for a cohort). Ning allows instructors to tap into the positive aspects of social networking technology without the baggage of being in a student’s personal space.

While there is something to be said about having everything in the same place, I would argue that we need to have lines in our lives to separate the different components. The hope, of course, is that these lines keep us grounded and more sane!

For more information on the “graying” of Facebook, you can view the original article, “73 and Loaded with Friends on Facebook,” on the New York Times website.