Social media is the thing right now. It provides a way to connect people of similar (or dissimilar) interests from around the world. Social media also provides networking tools for professionals and even for job hunters. And it offers a platform for friends and family to keep up with each other.
But social media isn’t just for professionals, computer geeks and families who prefer not to send email; increasingly, social media is becoming a part of the classroom. It is possible to use social media in such a way as to enhance the learning environment, and to provide an education. Here are 13 case studies that show that social media does have a place in the classroom:
1. City University of New York: Newsgathering with Social Media
It isn’t surprising that social media is used in newsgathering. Indeed, it’s fairly clear that many journalists are finding use in social networks when it comes to locating sources, finding supplemental information and learning about items of interest. As a result, Jeff Jarvis, a professor at the City University of New York, is teaching a class on using social media for newsgathering.
This is a graduate level class in the Graduate School of Journalism that teaches students that they can use real-time searches to find breaking news — and to find comments on that breaking news. Examples of social media search used in the class include Twitter, FriendFeed, Scoopler and SearchMerge, a service that allows you to search, in real time, a number of sites. Practical, in-class demonstrations are helping the next generation of journalists learn how to make use of all the tools at their disposal.
2. Stanford University: Showcasing Faculty and Student Work on Facebook
Many universities are interested in sharing projects with the world — not to mention educating others in the school. To that end, Stanford University is providing access to faculty and student projects on its Facebook page. Students looking for inspiration for projects can see videos, pictures and other previously done projects.
Also, gathering this information into one place makes it a little bit easier to search for news and research being done at Stanford. The university has multiple pages, making it easy to locate information on the Green Library, hospital and a number of the colleges and departments. Stanford University also offers Facebook office hours, at which time faculty is available to answer questions on Facebook.
3. Vestavia Hills High Schol in Birmingham, Alabama: Twittering Lesson Plans
Chris Copeland is all about using Twitter to help his students. He has a Twitter profile (@ccopeland), and we Twitters lesson plans and notes, as well as answers questions. He teaches language arts in Birmingham, Alabama, helping students learn more about literature and how to love it. His tweets make it easier to keep up with what’s going on.
Additionally, Copeland points out that using Twitter to share lesson plans can help other teachers get good idea for their own lessons. And, it helps teachers keep things straight. It can also serve as a record of what has been happening in the classroom, which means that absent students can get an idea of what they are missing, and prepare for lessons when they return.
4. Northwestern University: “NewsMixer”
In a class with a practical application, students at the Medill School of Journalism created the “NewsMixer.” The idea was to pull local, national and global news from a variety of sources. There are places for users to connect, integration with Facebook, the opportunity to write letters and share quips. It is basically a social network created by the students. The Web site is pretty much dead right now, but the practical application of creating one’s own social network, right in the classroom, is definitely an inspiration.
Encouraging students to explore using technology, and use their own creativity to create their own social network, is a great, hands-on activity that can translate into the “real world,” teaching technology skills, and providing valuable marketing knowledge and offering insight into how social media works.
5. Stockholm University: Streaming Seminars
Sometimes, students can’t make it to seminars and other events. Broadcasting these events is a good way to help them reach a wider student audience. Stockholm University in Sweden provided a live streaming video of an environmental seminar that allowed students to watch remotely, or save and watch later. The university also used this technique for a seminar on file sharing.
It is easy to see that such a use has immense application in the classroom. It would be possible to watch presentations from other schools, and to “attend” lectures remotely. Additionally, it would be useful to students to be able to replay seminars and lectures to look for information they might have missed the first time around.
6. Orono Middle School, Long Lake, Minnesota: Tech Wiki
Orono Middle School has a great tech wiki that can be used by students and teachers alike. The tech wiki is a great place to ask questions, and find answers. It includes interactive tutorials on a number of subjects, as well as provides information for students.
Caitlin Cahill (@CCahillMN), one of the technology folks at Orono Middle School, suggested that it is possible to use Twitter in the classroom to help students learn about a certain subject. Students compete to find resources, and be the first to post to Twitter. It’s like a kind of scavenger hunt, and it teaches students research skills.
7. Duke University: Mobile Web Client
If you are looking to register for classes, check email or even access class notes posted up from professors, it is possible to do so with a mobile Web client. Duke University (as well as Georgia Tech and several other schools) is making it easier to complete a number of tasks using a cell phone. Enhanced learning from anywhere can take place using social media networks and Web clients.
8. Birmingham City University, Great Britain: Degree in Social Networking
If you want to be able to teach social networking like a pro, there is now a place you can turn to. Birmingham City University is offering a year-long Master’s degree in social networking. As you might imagine, course offerings include Facebook and Twitter, as well as other social networks such as Bebo. The idea is to help people learn how to use social media in a number of ways to benefit them, whether it is study skills or marketing skills.
9. Cardiff University, Wales: Tweprints
Looking for help finding peer-reviewed information for a science paper or project? Tweprints can help. Robert J. Simpson, a Ph.D. student at Cardiff University, began a project that puts twitter information about scientific papers in one place. It even includes the arXiv ID number, so it is easy to track down the papers themselves online. It is even possible to narrow your search by category (astrophysics, maths, condensed matter, etc.) This is a useful tool that students can use for a number of purposes.
10. University Laboratory High School, Illinois: Twittering Dante
Want to learn more about a great piece of literature? Steve Rayburn, a teacher at the University Laboratory High School, had his students consider Dante’s Divine Comedy. Students used Twitter to post updates from Dante to Beatrice for inside each of the nine circles of Hell. Not only did it require students to read the assignments, but it also got them excited about it — and thinking about what they would post.
11. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: YouTube
You can put up your own YouTube channel, creating videos and providing ingormation. The University of North Carolina offers a number of helpful videos for students and faculty alike on its YouTube channel. Videos relating to health and medicine, business and information technology can supplement student learning, and be used as teaching aids in thse classroom.
12. Georgia Southern University: Blog for a Social Media Course
Barbara Nixon teaches a course titled “Making Connections: Facebook & Beyond,” which aims to teach communication and networking skills. Not only does the course teach one how to use social media, but it teaches the value of communication with others through online assignments using Twitter and Facebook, as well as other social media Web sites. Students are required to start a blog, and Nixon herself keeps a blog on the class assignments and answers questions through here Twitter account (@barbaranixon)
13. University of Wisconsin, Madison: CoveritLive
In order to facilitate more students listening to a lecture on journalism ethics at the University of Wisconsin, Katy Culver encouraged her students to use CoveritLive. This is a social media tool that can be embedded into a blog or Web site and then used to comment on proceedings, link to appropriate content, and even ask questions. This is a great way to provide distance learning for those who may not be physically present, and offer them a way to ask questions and get answers.
Now here is a neat trick. Precisely as your read this exciting guest post from the brilliant Jon Buscall, I will be meeting him for the first time in Stockholm, Sweden. Jon has become one of my oldest and dearest Twitter friends so the timing of this post is only fitting. Enjoy! ~ Mark
This is a story to inspire even the grumpiest social media naysayer.
If a group of 20 senior high school students can get their heads around social media marketing in the space of a couple of weeks, contribute to a marketing strategy, and help slash an annual marketing budget by over 70 percent whilst delivering improved results, just think what you could do if you let your people loose to explore their own creativity!
Back in 2009 my company started running the marketing campaign for a local Stockholm high school. The school’s income is based solely on the $16,000 it receives per annum per student, paid by the local municipality. Faced with declining numbers of kids born sixteen years ago, the market was becoming increasingly competitive with schools vying for students. Marketing costs were escalating as ad agencies sensed there was money to be made but the school wanted to invest more in facilities for existing students rather than lining marketers’ pockets.
After I met with the school management team and grasped their unique selling point of an academic education in English, I set about persuading the school to launch a daily blog, a Facebook Page and to get on Twitter ASAP.
For that academic year I personally handled the account, ghost blogging and tweeting on a daily basis. My favorite anecdote from that year has to be the student I connected with on Twitter who ended up joining the school. Not bad, eh? $16,000 for a single tweet!
Well, obviously it was more than a tweet, but you get the point! The student visited the school and talked to students and staff after we connected online. But the point is a tweet alerted her to the possibilities found at the school.
Within a year applications to the school were up, marketing costs were down considerably and everything, as the saying goes, was pretty much peachy creamy.
The competition responds
By the start of the next academic year every school in Stockholm seemed to have a blog, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account and a lavish video made by a local ad agency. All the schools — and their ad agencies were following our lead and jumping on the bandwagon. It represented a new revenue stream for the agencies of course. Two months later I would see one school giving away badges with the familiar Facebook “Like” icon on at the annual Stockholm schools recruitment fair.
With the market increasingly competitive and the school looking to invest in books and the building rather than even more marketing, we looked at different solutions. In the end, having spent a decade as a full-time university lecturer I decided to accept the school’s offer to run a Communications class this academic year with the brief to get students involved in the social media campaign. Essentially, they were to be my team of marketing interns.
… and the students take over!
I jumped at the chance to experience what 18-19 year olds were up to, but I quickly discovered they didn’t have a clue about brand personas, integrated marketing campaigns, business blogs or the power of Facebook as a marketing tool. So we started out listening to an array of internet marketing podcasts, reading business blogs and immersing ourselves in content marketing and social media strategy.
Sure, the students’ first blog posts and ventures into podcasting weren’t spectacular but very quickly they were producing material that could be published and included in the school’s online presence. Seizing on this I set up a project where they were required to produce material ahead of the first of three annual Open Houses that are the school’s key recruitment events.
Equipped with cameras, digital recorders and a sense of enthusiasm that I personally find hard to muster when it comes to trying to get people to talk on camera, off they went.
The results were spectacular:
The students promoted their efforts across their social media profiles and I chipped in with a bit of blogging on the school website.
We watched and waited with baited breath to see our results.
It’s All About Creativity & the Network
A rough poll taken in the class showed that on average each student had 450 Facebook “friends”. No wonder word of mouth spread quickly. Teens aren’t just connected to teens their age. Brothers and sisters, relatives and so on, follow each other’s Walls.
And we seeing BIG results. On an extremely cold January evening just after Christmas over 700 prospective students came along to Open House to find out about the school. This was double the figure for the same event the previous year. The school auditorium was so full the principal had to give her introductory welcome speech a second time.
Having grasped the value of showing and not just telling, the students recorded this event to show prospective students ahead of the April Open House just what it’s like to visit the school.
Applications to the school doubled this year and the grade-point average for applicants is considerably higher than last year. Sure, some of this has to do with the commitment of the staff and school management, as well as the efforts of my company to help them along; however, 20 communications students are responsible for a massive portion of this success.
I’m in awe of what they’ve helped the school achieve.
A Few Observations by the Old Guy
I understand how marketing works and I think I have a pretty good understanding of social media. Sharing these skills seemed to set off a spark in these teens and they jumped onboard the social media train with enthusiam rarely seen in a company environment where people are PAID to be enthusiastic!
With passion and dedication they created content that didn’t just impress me, it made me sit up and really take notice. It also struck a chord with their peers, who to judge by the numbers preferred the school’s low-fi 2 minute videos to the glossy 5 minute clips other schools had invested in.
To the students’ credit, the results of this “experiment” were so much better than I dared imagine that the principal has asked me to come back and run the same course with another group in the fall.
Thinking about it now I can see that the experience has taught me an important lesson that all of us working in business should remember: if you can inspire your employees to become an active part of your social media marketing campaign you can reach new goals.
These kids were extremely busy just like your employees, juggling lots of tasks throughout the year. However with a bit of planning (thanks Basecamp!) and training they were able to create content and execute the strategy we’d discussed.
Transfer that kind of approach to your software company, your airline, your food store, your agency or corporation and you can see the possibilities. Just as my students proudly shared their efforts with their network, so will your people help your business reach new people.
Getting the social media content creation out of the hands of your professional marketers and into the hands of the people actually doing the job in your business will have far reaching benefits.
These students were not just involved. They were IGNITED. What are the implications for your own business?
Jon Buscall <http://www.twitter.com/jonbuscall> runs Stockholm-based digital communications agency Jontus Media. He blogs at www.jontusmedia.com/blog Oh, and he has five <http://www.bassethounds.nu>basset hounds!
Tags: jon buscall, social media and education, social media case study
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