The topic for this discussion forum is the use, impact, and relevance of social media tools within an education context – how they are being used by students as part
of a collaborative learning mechanism; how teachers are trained to use
the tools themselves for peer collaboration and within a pedagogical
Social media, if properly integrated within the education system, is set to have a major impact on
education and the way learners communicate, collaborate, construct their knowledge, and shape their understanding of the world around them.
In the past 10 years, I have worked online with educators and students from around the world
on “classroom-generated content” within projects that allowed classrooms to collaborate, research, and co-create different concrete outcomes: literary anthology, paintings, and murals, as well as meaningful discussions on diversity and the environment.
It was a great
experience for me to live the shift from working collaboratively within the confinement of predesigned online platforms (Moodle, forums, etc.) to the openness of social media. In both we generated outcomes, but the latter gave flexibility enabling both teachers and students to contribute to the content and structure of the platforms, sometimes creating their own. This ownership of their
learning proved to be of great importance in the engagement and development of users.
The latest project we worked on was the I-DO Project with 11 public schools (funded by Cisco with the support of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon, MEHE). It aimed to improve teaching and learning practices using social media in science research projects and culminated in the production of classroom videos. The videos will be published on the Cisco Show
and Share video portal to be accessed by schools that are part of the National Education Network. The aim is for students to create, share, and learn from each other, and so the learning outcomes
of a class actually become a source of knowledge for another. This ultimate goal gave a deep purpose to the video production which by itself was more challenging and exciting to produce than in any other way of presenting their work.
It simply has been fascinating to observe the development and collaboration of teachers, gradually
contributing to the wiki dedicated to the project, working in parallel with their students who were so motivated to create a collaborative classroom video. The project motivated teachers and students who produced quality outcome; the MEHE requested
to scale it up from 11 to 50 schools.
The I-DO professional development program was designed using collaborative project-based learning methodology, the scientific method, guidance, and tutorials to create short movies (subject, message, script, scenario, shooting, editing). Teachers interacted together and with the facilitators in a wiki for the duration of the project period. The professional development was delivered online and supported by face-to-face workshop.
A very important point I would like to highlight is web safety. In our online projects we operated in “secured environments” to ensure protection of our students (all below 18 and many below 13). Due to the hype surrounding Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube one has the tendency to assume that social media are limited to those provided by these famous and successful social networks; we operated in our own environment!
Social media has definitely impacted the way we communicate, know, learn, market, collaborate and create; so yes, it helps students’ engagement but using social media does not qutomatically imply engagement or investment of the learner in his/her learning process, neither does it imply quality of learning outcomes or valuable content created.
For social media to be relevant in education, it is essential for teachers to focus on the pedagogy behind their use and to create and design exciting and meaningful learning in a creative and nurturing context.
Taking in considering the success of grassroots project, the additional workload on teachers and students, and the rigidity of school systems, how can we integrate the use of social media in the learning process?