7 ways in which “social learning applications” can play an impactful role in education:

Engagement: Using social media and networking tools obviously has a social aspect to it, and it requires proactive effort on the part of the user. In other words, using these tools to communicate and interact requires a student’s active engagement. Socialization also provides opportunities for emotional engagement (this article from The Chronicle discusses the importance of emotional engagement as part of the social learning process). 

Social Learning: Bandura’s Social Learning Theory posits that “people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling”. Of course, the type of socialization that occurs via “social” computer tools is certainly different than face-to-face social interaction, but it still offers opportunities for social learning. 

Use time outside of class better, so you can use class time better: Social learning tools also position instructors to deliver content outside of the classroom, and then “flip” the classroom – working on what would have been homework during class sometimes. (And yes, this is the same idea I loved from Salman Khan’s recent TED talk the other week).

It provides opportunities for writing and writing assessment: While tools like Twitter lend themselves to abbreviated “texting” style uses of language, there is no need for this in most other forums. Teachers can choose to include grading of writing quality as part of the rubrics they develop for grading social media based assignments and class work.

Encourage dialogue, reach more students: It’s social! “Let’s talk”! Sometimes anything that can draw out reluctant teens and pre-teens is a good thing when the goal is to communicate. One clear advantage of socializing across the Internet is that it is seen as less intimidating that face to face contact, and can allow shy students to express themselves more comfortably.

Help students get ahead of the professional curve: One of the fundamental goals of education is to position young people for enjoyable, successful careers. Social media is becoming more important to business with each passing year. Many organizations have moved from just discussing ”social media awareness” and “social marketing” to including actually social media business planning as part of their strategic planning efforts. An increasing number of professional positions desire or require social media awareness, and it seems likely that more positions will call for this skill in the future.

Build connections: Using social networking tools to deliver social learning experiences in the classroom provides opportunities to meet other students and have access (depending on the tools being used) to other educators and professionals. Maintaining connections and communicating with these new colleagues has never been easier, thanks to these Internet based applications.

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