How Does Social Media Impact Schools?

Our society is making major changes every day, and social media is dictating some of these changes and is influencing how our society operates. As a result, whatever changes we see in society will have a definite impact on what happens in our schools. To run effectively, schools cannot ignore these societal changes. That’s why our students and staff need to develop positive experiences with social media usage in our schools. Schools and school districts that decide to embrace social media are utilizing new technology to inform, educate, and prepare students and staff for the 21st century.

Each school year the following question will have to be answered: What if a student or staff member is using their personal social media account off school property in a negative, inappropriate, or confrontational manner that has an impact on the staff or students? Additionally, does this usage impact the student’s ability to learn at school or impact the educational day? If it does, then the school should have the right to investigate and issue appropriate consequences. This is an important problem that has impacted schools from all over the world. It is vital that our schools address this problem in their student code or face the possibility of students, staff members, or both disrupting the school.

In an effort to be pro-active, schools and school districts have decided to prevent problems from occurring by teaching students the proper way to use social media. Schools are now showing their students how social media can be used to collaborate on school projects, find summer jobs, participate in online chats, discuss books read in class, share and receive positive information on the school’s Facebook page, keep up with what’s happening around the world, do research, share successful educational stories, secure classroom information, etc. Teachers can use Twitter accounts to send homework assignments to students, provide classroom information for students, and have classroom discussions. By embracing social media, schools are empowering their students to communicate more with their classmates, which will develop a stronger community of learners.

School employees should have procedures in place for how they use social media in an effort to monitor how educators use their personal and school accounts to interact with students. Schools should consider employees using their personal accounts to communicate with students as inappropriate and as grounds for termination. While this might sound harsh, sometimes staff using their personal accounts with students can lead to the appearance of an inappropriate relationship. In particular, staff members should never have a student’s pictures posted on their Facebook. These concerns should be addressed at the first staff meeting of the school year, and staff members should sign an agreement that the school’s social media account be used for teaching purposes only and not for reaching out to students.

Overall, schools know there is a lot of abuse involved with the use of social media, but research has shown that schools that take the time to educate their staff and students on the proper usage are developing a community of learning that will be productive in the 21st century

The Role of Social Learning Portal in Research and Education

The significant changes in the means people collaborate and share information have opened the way to form various study groups at different places and from different disciplines. A distributed learning environment not only involves teachers and students within the university, but extends to students at different universities as well. Nowadays, many technologies are used in e-learning, from blogs to collaborative software, virtual classrooms, forum exchanges, social media and mobile technologies. One of the most important characteristics of web 2.0 technologies is that they emphasize sharing, participation, and collaboration. A well-designed learning environment helps to improve learning by making information and instructional content available and accessible anytime and from anywhere.

Social learning is defined as a new paradigm of finding, consuming, creating and contributing information via collaborative commons. In this environment, community creates and maintains multiple forms of content and members of this community are able to find and consume content via an informal path. Collaborative learning environments have been proven to offer significantly higher quality of content as compared to formal learning environments. Additionally, social learning creates a higher degree of engagement among participants and members can benefit mutually from the links, cross-talk, and feedback. A lot of research has been done on the role of Web 2.0 services in supporting social interaction between students, teachers, and researchers.

In light of the benefits associated with the rapid advance in information technology and the growing popularity of social-networking sites, many websites are moving to adopt learning communities for easily sharing knowledge. Social learning websites are expanding and becoming more specialized; they support creating private and public work spaces. Furthermore, those websites promote active conversation between students, employees, teams, project clients, and partners. ‘Livemocha’ is an online language community that is specialized for language learners, connecting with native speakers for instructive help. ‘Bloomfire’ is an additional example which specializes in building an effective knowledge base for businesses through a collaborative environment; this website easily supports sharing knowledge and the discussions that surround business topics. ‘Google Docs’ is a service by Google that allows people to share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with others. ‘Zoho’ supports creating collaborative portals for effective knowledge management. Users can create a searchable, centralized information repository for easy organizational access. Some websites offer communities to build their own social networking website (i.e. ‘socialgo’). They provide a set of features including profiles, messaging, groups, events, chat, forums, blogging and file upload. To enhance online collaboration between students, there is need for online community that can connect students from different universities and research centers.

This article highlights the importance of developing a Social Learning Portal between universities as an application of social learning between academic institutions. This specialized community can be administrated by information technology centers at universities. This community includes university students and teachers, and accounts are granted to students with valid university IDs. Information about students’ universities and departments are public in this online community. The social learning portal can be divided into several communities; one community for each department, including all participating universities. Each community can be further divided into sub-communities according to specialization, for example, the major community is Computer Science, sub-communities include Computer Networks, Web Development, and Object Oriented Programming. In addition, joint communities can be formed between different departments, which can help different university students share experiences and collaborate. For example, a research project may include students specialized in Computer Science and Bioinformatics. Students who belong to this community can share the proper, related learning content and resources easily with other students.

This social learning portal enhances scientific research; it provides an online working structure for collaborative projects. Embedded in a user-friendly interface, the portal will offer research and publication guidelines for students. In addition, Social Learning Portal supports research group formation (under the supervision of involved departments) that combines students from different universities and various academic backgrounds. Instructors can add new groups according to their research interests, they can assign research participants to the group, and activities can be viewed by students from all universities; when students join the group they can see the group’s posts on their wall, and they can participate by writing comments. Furthermore, students can contact instructors from other universities. Universities can assign weekly hours for instructors to be online and discuss some problems posted by students (office hours).

To develop a successful social learning website, factors must be considered during the design and development and some questions must be raised:

1. What is the role of universities for successful implementation of social learning?

2. The attitudes of teachers and students towards using social learning platforms, and the effectiveness of existing platforms.

3. What are the possibilities and barriers of implementing new and effective features/technologies for social learning in universities?

By introducing a specialized social learning community, the quality of the education process at the universities will be enhanced, scientific research will be emphasized, and social networks will be a more effective and reliable tool.