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Reflections on Teaching with Social Media

In the Chronicle of Higher Education (full article), Brian Croxall shares his experiences with using social media tools in his classes:


Did Twitter help establish a social sixth sense for my classes? I believe it did for the one where everyone tweeted on a daily basis. We suddenly knew about one another’s lives outside of class and that enabled conversations to happen in class more easily than they otherwise would have. The students also learned something about creating online personas that at times differed in significant ways from their real personas. While there’s certainly a fine line between teacher and student relationships, we made this subject a portion of our class discussions and found it useful. In the second and third classes, I got less of a sense of a classroom shift, and I believe that this was due to less overall buy-in to the tool.


I tend to use a PBworks wiki as my LMS of choice. But as I have mentioned previously I not only post syllabi and assignments on the wiki, but I have students use it as well, with a Jason’s wiki notes assignment. I’ve used this assignment for four semesters in a row, and while it takes a little bit for the students to understand both the idea of collaborative note taking and the wiki itself, it’s probably the best thing that I do for getting my students to understand the material that we cover in class. Even the students like the assignment–especially when it’s exam time. What I like about using the wiki this way is that it makes use of a wiki’s natural advantages. I’ve not had to change my approach to using it much for the last three semesters, and I don’t think that I will in the future.

Google Wave

Like Kathleen, we were going to use Wave as a way of taking collaborative notes. But where I differed from her approach was that I had the students use the wiki for the first half of the semester for these notes; we then transitioned to Wave. The point of doing this was to allow the students to evaluate two different media for collaborative document writing. But looking back, I think that it was a bad move. When it came time to switch, the students understood the wiki and were working well within it. Wave was similar in many ways, but different in enough ways that it was as if they had to learn the assignment again from the beginning. The result was a sort of tool fatigue. My take away from this experiment was to pick one tool for an assignment and stick to it. I’ll use Wave again in the future, I’m sure, but I believe I’ll use it like Kathleen and just start with it from the beginning so we can iron out the problems. This will be easier now that Wave account creation is no longer by-invite only.


We here at ProfHacker are big fans of Zotero, the Firefox plugin for collecting, managing, citing, and sharing research. This semester I decided to have one of my classes do an annotated group bibliography in Zotero. I had two reasons for giving the students this assignment. First, I wanted them to learn to use what I consider to be a tool that could be useful in classes outside of my own. Second, I wanted the students to benefit from one another’s bibliographies when it came time to writing final papers.

And so on…

I’ve most learned from a semester with heavy social media use:

  1. Be ready for problems. Even if you’ve never had any yourself, the number of students and of students’ computers (whether personal or in a lab) will insure that you have some.
  2. Be conscious of tool fatigue. The classroom should be a place where lots of learning takes place and where the patterns of learning can be shifted in interesting ways. Just don’t overdo it.
  3. In the end, I still think it is worth it.

Read the full article at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Does Wikipedia Suck?

In an article by Inside Higher Ed, the author discusses faculty’s perception of Wikipedia and its use by students’ for research papers. Some professors immediately decry Wikipedia as unreliable due to its open-editing nature and forbid students from using it. The author who is also an instructor tested the theory by assigning students different topics to research on Wikipedia and report on the findings. Contrary to what some people believe, Wikipedia does contain a lot of useful information and it is written in a clear and easy to understand format. However, while the articles were useful, they did not contain the depth of information as would be found in a scholarly paper or publication. As with most general encyclopedias, Wikipedia gives a basic overview of the topic at hand as well as references to more in-depth articles but the information is often not appropriate for in-depth research.
To read the entire article, visit http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/instant_mentor/weir22

Blogs and wikis in the classroom

Blogs and wikis in the classroom
Elaine Plybon, Dallas Educational Technology Examiner

Over the last few years, more and more educators have begun using blogs and wikis in the classroom. This article will discuss what blogs and wikis are, some of their uses in the classroom, and provide resources for teachers who are hoping to begin using blogs and/or wikis this year.

Blogs, short for “web logs” have become popular through all social circles. Blogs give an author or authors an opportunity to share information with large groups of people via the web in a very easy-to-use format. Readers of articles are able to post comments to them, which makes each blog a dynamic work-in-progress. Often used as a distribution point for information, news, and updates, many companies, newspapers, and individuals have experienced benefits from starting a blog.

In the classroom, blogs can be used as a place for students to talk about what they have learned, discuss perspectives on a news item, or provide information to individuals who have an interest in the class. There are multiple sources for free blogs. Visit the “For more information” section of this article to find a few.

Wikis are another dynamic tool for use in the classroom. Wiki means “quickly” in Hawaiian. Whether that is how they were named or if it is an acronym for “What I Know Is”, using wikis is a way to create webpages without having any knowledge of the software programming languages required to write web pages. Wikis can be edited by several people, making them a useful tool for collaborative projects. Wikis also give students an opportunity to reveal what they have learned, begin conversations about topics they are researching, and display projects or other products from the classroom. Wikis are very easy to edit. Usually it only takes clicking an “Edit” button and a user will be given the opportunity to add their own content in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) format. One example of a very popular wiki is Wikipedia.

True for both blogs and wikis:
Adding graphics and files for download are fairly easy. Teachers can use either format as a source of information for parents, including homework assignments, classroom calendars, and contact information. It is also very important when using blogs or wikis that students be reminded about following copyright laws at all times. The temptation to use images and other information they find on the internet can be difficult to overcome in a copy-and-paste society.

There are some classrooms that use both blogs and wikis. However, in my opinion a teacher should determine which one is right for his/her own classroom use. In my science classroom, for example, we will use a wiki this year to showcase what we’ve learned, create a word wall, and work on group projects. Other classrooms might lend themselves more towards a blog – as a place for students to comment on each other’s ideas and information.

It is important, as with any technology in the classroom, to make sure that what is used is relevant and the right tool for each classroom. Deciding to teach students how to use every technology tool just because it is a cool tool and has a use in some classrooms is not good practice. A teacher must thoughtfully consider what each classroom needs and give students the information they need to be able to use the tool efficiently and effectively.

Read the full article at the link below…

Link: http://www.examiner.com/x-12200-Dallas-Educational-T…

3 Challenges (with Benefits) to Wiki Use in Instruction

3 Challenges to Wiki Use in Instruction
Ruth Reynard

How can the instructional uses of a wiki be maximized to ensure this higher level of engagement with students?

  1. Creating Meaningful Assignments: Motivation
    • The Assignments Is Moving and Not Closed (Dynamic, Not Static)
    • The Assignment Requires Participation
    • The Assignment Uses the Participation To Move Forward
  2. Grade Value for Constructed Input: Affirmation
    • Working with and Building on Existing Information
    • Inputting new information
    • Synthesis of Ideas and Relevant Use
  3. Collective Knowledge Use: Learning
    • Complex Problems
    • Non-Preset Solutions
    • Adequate Time Allowed for Process

Read more at the link below!

Link: http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2009/02/11/3-Challenges-to-Wiki-Use-in-Instruction.aspx

Wikis as a Teaching Tool

Wiki as a Teaching Tool
Kevin R. Parker and Joseph T. Chao

Wikis are one of many Web 2.0 components that can be used to enhance the learning process. A wiki is a web communication and collaboration tool that can be used to engage students in learning with others within a collaborative environment. This paper explains wiki usage, investigates its contribution to various learning paradigms, examines the current literature on wiki use in education, and suggests additional uses in teaching software engineering.

Link: http://www.educause.edu/node/154604