First off, we hope you and your family had a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
A couple weeks back, we talked to Gordon Snyder about using social media in the classroom. This week we’re hearing another perspective from Jane Ostrander, Director of the Experimental Learning Center at De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif.
Jane is writing her dissertation about the reasons why people choose to participate in online knowledge sharing. It boils down to a cost/benefit analysis: “The potential participant must see some value in participating that outweighs whatever costs s/he anticipates will occur as a result of that participation.”
Once an online community is established, it’s vital to make sure participants have a stake in the conversation. Jane cites research showing that “a sense of either personal ownership or stewardship of the information enhanced sharing.”
Jane and her team are putting these insights to work in an online community on the educational site Tapped In. They’re using the site to explore new ways to disseminate instructional materials and lesson plans, and to develop online “wizards” to provide advice to community college instructors. Jane has also used YouTube as a way to get materials out to a wide audience without spending a lot of money – “always a concern with budget-impaired community college faculty,” she notes.
As for other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Ostrander thinks it’s important not to confuse tools with learning. She hopes that her fellow teachers remember the lesson from the advent of the personal computer. “Buying and networking a bunch of computers and parking them in the back of the classroom did not automatically enhance teaching and learning in that classroom,” she notes.
“Social network tools provide educators with a means to connect with and inform students, but that’s not the same thing as facilitating learning,” she says. “The interaction between teacher, student, content and environment – including the available tools – is what makes learning happen in the classroom.”
In other words, it’s not the technology but what teachers are able to do with it that makes a difference for students. That’s why she’s staying actively involved in her Tapped In community. “Essentially, our project team is driving the bus at this point, though hopefully not forever, whereas social media tools just deliver the bus and a set of keys and say, ‘Go for it; make of it what you will.’”