Social Media in Education

This is a guest blog post written by my assistant and Community Manager, Kat Armstrong.

After spending the past few days writing about the new iPhone, my brain was absolutely shot. Approximately 90% of what I write every day deals with technology news, gadgets and companies. About an hour ago, I hit a brick wall. I had zero ideas floating around in my noggin. I couldn’t bring myself to write about the iPhone yet again. I sat here staring at the screen as I frantically casted about for a subject – any subject – to talk about next.

I decided to fire up my handy-dandy TweetDeck application. Reaching out to my followers, I asked for ideas. One good friend suggested I talk about the uses of social media in education. That sounded interesting, and my mind began to churn. I fired off another tweet, asking “STUDENTS: How has/does the use of social media help your education (NOT your social life!)?” I also repeated the question in Chris’ live chat room.

The replies poured in, and I was dismayed. I heard from nearly one hundred students of all ages and education levels. I haven’t done the math, but I’d feel safe in guessing that approximately 5% of those answering claim that they make use of social media in their educational lives. The rest of them said they only use it to catch up with friends, chat about their day and play games.

In the age of Web 2.0, why aren’t students using social media in the classroom? We already know that Twitter is the fastest way to find information on breaking news stories. Blogs can be used to encourage creative writing and proper grammar skills. Cramster is a Q&A board much like our new Lockergnome site. However, its sole purpose lies in bringing together pupils of all ages to help each other with homework and research. Sites such as Box and Dropbox allow learners and educators to share files together quickly and easily.

At the very least, sites such as Twitter, Facebook and even (*shudder*) MySpace can be used to create discussion in the classroom. Teachers can pull news stories from any of those sources. Students can ask questions and facilitate deeper discussion after reading something on one of the thousands of SM sites. Professors can institute peer reviews on writing projects. Kids can locate an expert in a field they are interested in, and “shadow” them on the Web. Geotagging can be used to target and find information about places that are being studied.

The possibilities are, quite honestly, endless. I certainly hope that my quick Twitter poll is not indicative of the use (or rather – the lack) of social media in an educational setting. Will someone prove me wrong? I’d love to hear your stories of how your school or college has been incorporating the use of social media into the curriculum.

Kat can be found in any number of places around the Web. You can catch her on Twitter, Facebook, and of course on every site in our community. If you’re lucky, you may even find her occasionally rambling about something on her personal blog.

College Advice

If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this question, I’d have paid off my student loans 10x over:

My Name is Daniel, but go I by the name Nico. Everyone asks me how i got that nickname but i honestly do not know why my percents started calling me that. I am Filipino, currently living in the Philippines, and a senior in high school. I’ve been watching your videos for a long time now, and what you do really interests me. I, like you, love technology.

I am going to the US for college to take up industrial design. I’m emailing you because I was hoping you would be able to give me some advice. My parents are spending almost double for my college tuition than what they spent for my older siblings for their college education – and I really want to figure out a way to help pay for it, or find a way to pay them back eventually. There will be added costs as a need to purchase a laptop, hopefully a Mac, for the major I’m planning to take, and I think I’m going to constantly buy materials for my classes. I really, really want to pay for as much of all of this as I can.

One thing that I think I have some talent with is photography, and this may be a way I can generate some money. I am very passionate about photography. I post some of my photographs on my flickr. I take photos of almost everything. I’m heavily involved with my school yearbook, both as a photographer and a layout editor, and the school magazine. I’m hoping to eventually make some money with my photos, but don’t know how to start. It would be great if you could give me some tips on maybe starting my own website and how to generate some money out of it. Any other advice on selling photographs online would be great. I’m not expecting to make tons of money, and I don’t expect it to happen overnight, but I am willing to work hard and be patient for it.

Let me first say that I’m impressed with your ability to communicate in a fairly coherent fashion; 90% of the emails I receive from U.S. students are sloppy (not to mention, beyond illegible). I’m not sure if English is your primary or secondary language, but your literary skills will be what spells success in your initial and continued endeavors.

Hell, most American adults can’t even grasp the concept that Apple’s “Mac” computer isn’t written as “MAC” (which is a store brand for cosmetics).

That, and your personal responsibility for finances should also be a lesson to the lazy.

You likely have a certain set skills which are valuable to others. It’s now your responsibility to find the intersection between what you can do and who can pay you to do what you do. You’ll figure out the “how” after seeing what works (and, more importantly, what doesn’t work).

There are near-infinite ways for you to make a Web site and countless opportunities to sell your photo work. Remember, however, that tools are merely the means to an end – and you’re not the only person using them to achieve your goals.

The information is out there on how to do anything – but nothing will ever teach you as much about a task as figuring it out for yourself. If I have a single tip for you, it’s simply: DO IT.

You’ll figure “it” out.

Of course, I’m sure people will have specific recommendations for you – but good advice is relative, and (still) only valuable if you apply it to your set of circumstances.

TeachStreet


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I recently attended the WTIA Fast Pitch Forum & Technology Showcase. The conference featured two dozen of the hottest technology companies in Washington presenting their business in a competition for “Best In Show”. TeachStreet is an online community for people who love to learn, and was one of the three “Top Presenters”.

TeachStreet is an online community that brings learners and teachers together. It’s a place where people who love to learn can find classes that are right for them. They also offer a public forum that helps teachers, coaches and other experts share what they know. In the process, TeachStreet helps them grow their businesses with online tools used to promote classes, workshops and events. This allows the experts to focus on what they do best – teach!

The TeachStreet team is a bunch of dreamers and tech Geeks who want to encourage you to get out from behind your computer, head into the world, and learn something new! They support that goal by helping people find experts in your neighborhood who can teach you anything you might be interested in learning.

TeachStreet has extensive class coverage in several cities across the US, and they’re growing every day. Whether you want to learn to sew in Seattle, or how to dance in Denver – TeachStreet has you covered.

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How to Get Free Microsoft Software


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Whether you love them or hate them, Microsoft is here to stay. If you ask me, I’d have to say I’m more on the love side. They do some pretty amazing things… especially giving away software to students and teachers!

Head over to DreamSpark. Now, for the first time, Microsoft is giving its valuable software developer and design tools directly to students worldwide at no charge! This site enables students to download Microsoft developer tools to advance your learning and skills through design, technology, math, science and engineering activities.

In order to get this software at no charge, you will be asked to establish or verify your student status once every 12 months. If you’re not 18 yet, your parents or guardians will have to log onto the site and accept the usage agreement.

It’s no joke, you can get a load of Microsoft software for absolutely zero dollars. If your school isn’t listed on the site yet, give the web address to your school administrators. They can get your school signed up.

Now, if I ask again – do you love or hate Microsoft – what do you answer now? This is an excellent program. Hat tip to Microsoft!

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How Do you Teach People about Hardware and Software?

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One of our community members writes: “Hey Chris, jthermane24 from the chat room. Here are my top tips for helping those who are “technically challenged” to learn.”

  • Be calm and talk slow. Seniors and the technological illiterate will NOT know all the shortcuts that we geeks know and live by. Most likely, it will take them three times as long to do the simple tasks that we can do in five seconds. Talking slow and loudly (for seniors) will make this process much easer for them and less stressful for you. Be prepared to explain the same thing multiple times. This will mostly apply to seniors because they often have problems hearing. So always talk VERY slow.
  • Having a preprepared list of steps to read from will make the process of teaching easier. Just type them or even write them up. It will make the speed of the session go so much faster, because you won’t have to sit there and stare at the screen with that blank stare that we get when we forget stuff.
  • When you are done showing the “student” what they asked you to teach them, ask them to use their computer to make a step-by-step instruction manual. Use the print screen button to take a screen capture of each page as you show them again how to do whatever they asked. Keep a text document running in the background, and then just copy each screen capture into the document. After you have finished the task, use the simple drawing tools to circle the icons, drop down lists, or whatever they have to click on for that step. Put each picture on its own page and include text (use at least 20 size font).
  • Now with new technology, there is the ability to screen record. Simply install a simple screen recording software (such as CamStuido) and record the steps to a video file… then embed your voice over it.

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