Trends and Roles

For the trends and roles assignment in  PIPD 3100 we were asked to research current trends in education in our field and look at how these trends are impacting the role of the educator. I decided to look at the trend of using social media in education and the role that the instructor plays.  To find references to citations in my posts, please refer to the Resources page.

social media picWhat new insights have you gained in the roles that adult educators play?
Adult educators play many roles including curriculum development, planning and designing lessons, lecturing, facilitating, managing the classroom, motivating students and evaluating learning. How is social media impacting the classroom and the role that adult educators play? A recent report by Business Insider stated that 1.2 billion people use Facebook regularly and engagement in social media is now the top internet activity (Adler, 2014). The major social media tools that are being used in education include, but are not limited to; YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google Moderator and blogs. Social media spans all ages and demographics and it is changing the face of learning and the way people interact and present information. It is creating many new  ways for educators to engage people in cooperative and collaborative learning. It allows educators to reach a broader audience and it provides a learning space for people separated by distance and time.

The new insights that I have gained in researching social media in education is that it places the role of the adult educator as that of a facilitator, instead of the ‘expert’ transferring knowledge to learners. Social media allows people to move from a learning environment controlled by the tutor, to an environment where they direct their own learning. Tools such as Facebook really put the learner at the centre of the experience, rather than the instructor and the institution. The ways in which people can learn using social media follows a constructivist approach, where the role of the instructor is to design activities to encourage knowledge construction, problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration. Understanding how social media can be leveraged for learning is a key skill that educators are increasingly being required to use. In social media where there is limitless access to information, instructors “take on the role of guide, context provider and quality controller, while simultaneously helping students make their own contributions to content and evaluations of the learning experience”. (LeNoue, 2011, p.6). Social media also enables the role of the teacher to extend beyond any geographical distance, time or other barriers to connection. There may be some fear from educators over privacy and resistance from the ‘expert’ instructor who might think that their role will disappear. There may also be control issues over content and quality. In addressing this, the Horizons Report suggests that “it is important for policymakers to create guidelines for effective and secure uses of social media, including the prevention of cyber-bullying and the formalization of penalties” (2014, p. 9).

It is important to realize that social media is not replacing the role of the instructor, but can be used as an educational tool to augment and maximize learning, particularly in collective thinking and action. For educators that are not currently using social media, introducing it can seem like a daunting task. The amount of tools on offer can be overwhelming, but a good place to begin is to find out what your students are already using, such as Facebook and implement those tools first.

social media 2What are the trends in your field and how are you preparing to address them?
In the field of career development and job search, the use of social media is a growing trend. Many employers use social media as a way to find and screen potential candidates and to look for evidence of skills and professional demeanor. Therefore, an essential skill for the 21st century job seeker is an understanding of how to use social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs to maximize opportunities for work. Instructors who are designing and delivering programs for adults in this field are not only using social media as learning tools, but also guiding students in how to use these tools for their own professional gain. The current series of programs provided by Work BC Employment Service Centres include a segment that teaches participants how to use social media to network and job search.

According to the 2014 NMC Horizon Report, social media has  “found significant traction in almost every education sector” and the growing ubiquity of social media is a “fast trend”, driving changes in higher education over the next one to two years (2014, p.8).  Social media cannot be ignored, so as an effective instructor, I must find ways in which to use it as a component for learning.  So how would I do this? I found plenty of articles on-line that gave me ideas and examples to work from. One useful guideline in planning the use of social media suggests that you;

  • align social media with learning objectives that will benefit from an element of sharing, co-creation or networking.
  • ask yourself what can be done without the instructor, where could participants benefit from providing content, rather than being given the information.
  • know your learners and ask yourself what tools they are already using. Think about which tools are easiest to begin with and which ones might annoy or confuse (Steer, 2012, p.31).

Here are some of my ideas on how I could use social media in my classroom;

  • Set up a class Facebook page to share information and links to relevant materials. I could ask each participant to join and add  information (such as links to employer sites). The Facebook group will also be a useful tool to grow each person’s network and keep people in touch even after the course is over. Updates, such as “I got the job of my dreams” could be very encouraging. People who are not already using Facebook would have an opportunity to try it out, in the safety of the course.
  • I can record lessons on YouTube that participants can refer to at any time, in or out of class. Examples of good and bad interview techniques would be a great video to share.
  • Use Skype to invite industry leaders into the classroom, to share information about what real employers are looking for and to answer questions in a live session.

Social media is an exciting development for learning. Overcoming fear of change might be a challenge for some, but I am prepared to harness its potential in my future classroom. For me, the advantages it brings for participation far outweigh any disadvantages.

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