Social media? Bane of my existence? Ray of sunshine?
To be on the same wavelength, the following definition of social media presents the social media I intend to discuss.
“Social media are Internet-based channels that allow users to opportunistically interact and selectively self-present, either in real-time or asynchronously, with both broad and narrow audiences who derive value from user-generated content and the perception of interaction with others.” (Carr and Hayes, 2015, p50)
Social media were never developed for pedagogical uses. However, they have great potential for improving education. This has been put to the test during the many lockdowns we have been forced to comply with. Teachers, amongst many other professionals, were working from home, whether to plan online sessions with teachers or attend seminars. Connecting, collaborating, brainstorming were possible and proved real. Hence, the many tasks we devised face-to-face were smoothly changed into online activities. Whether we appreciated the experience or not, this is another matter, what we did though, was cope in a more or less perfect way with the changing needs of our professional tasks. The pandemic has proven that our educational landscape needs constant and ongoing adjustment to the developing needs of our current “digital” or “semi-digital” era. At critical times, we feel the digital is only a pseudo one.
Issues for consideration
Taking into consideration the many positive aspects of social media does not exclude the urgent needs we need to tackle with students, teachers and all users of internet. Bolstering both students’ media literacy skills and critical thinking skills are two of the urgent key themes that need to be dealt with in depth. Other issues such as privacy concerns, identity theft, plagiarism, and more, remain real burdens.
One question to reflect upon is the following: Do you feel adrift in the gripping nature of social media or are you steering toward a more purposeful and principled navigation? This is tough, particularly when you have one social media account with which you connect with colleagues, friends and family at the same time.
Why do you use social media?
While preparing this blog post, I posed a question poll where I asked professionals, mainly teachers to choose one option amongst three alternatives:
The question was: Why do you use social media?
1. Expansion of one’s network
3. Building one’s brand and sharing content
The answers to this poll on LinkedIn are revealing. As a matter of fact, the respondents to this ad hoc poll are mainly interested in expanding their network and growing their professional circle. Digging deeper, communicating with like-minded professionals involves expanding one’s network, and getting inspired by their work.
How do you use social media?
Metaphorically speaking, I compare the experience of social media to that of travelling by the most rapid train. Some passengers are focusing on reading books, articles, magazines, etc. Others listen to their favourite music or watch their favourite movies. Some other users go on a wild goose chase and build castles in the air. And you can be the one of the passengers who is busy with all of these activities.
During this fascinating trip, some professionals are keen on discovering the outer world while other educators are immersed with inward-driven questions.
Social media can enrich your virtual experience
So whether you are an outward-driven or an inward-driven professional or even both, social media could but enrich your virtual experience.
Furthermore, the professional spectrum couldn’t be so appealing and enticing without the presence of active, creative communities. Within these edutopian communities, you meet active and inspiring educators who lift you up. Such dynamic connections and communities make the virtual experience a joyful and interesting one because they push you to think deeper, challenge you and make you creativity-inclined educators.
After all, there are no surefire ways to guarantee effective use of social media. Nevertheless, follow your passion and you will certainly find unexplored lands of creativity to visit. These lands are destined for brave, dedicated educators only.