The Effects of Social Media on Adult Education Today-New Insights

New Insights

go go gadget teacherWith the rate at which information is being shared in the 21st century, it is no longer sufficient for educators to continue to teach strictly using methods of the past. Gone are the days when the job of educators was to stand at the front of the class lecturing and to offer assistance to students either in class or during very limited office hours.  Times have changed and so must the educators of today if we want to stay connected with our students and ensure that we are providing them with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in today’s marketplace.  Today’s marketplace demands that employees are capable of using technology effectively, working collaboratively with others, being creative and innovative, using good communication and critical thinking skills.  So how do we, as educators in the 21st century, ensure that we are teaching and promoting these skills and abilities within our students?  Can the use of social media in the classroom really be the way to reach these goals?

Social media has changed how we approach many facets of life in the 21st century, including everything from our interpersonal relationships to how we consume and filter media.  Many teachers used to (and still do) shun social media from the classroom, claiming it distracts students and raises privacy concerns. (Hunt, T., 2014, p.1).

Until recently, I too had reservations about using social media as a platform in which to assist me in my instructional efforts.  Through my research for this assignment and current use in my own educational efforts, I have come to realize that using social media platforms can be a very beneficial tool for educators.

Educators who have chosen to adopt teaching methods of the 21st century, such as using social media platforms, have seen a change in their roles within and outside of the classroom.  Teaching in the 21st century has changed from that of a teacher-centered model to one that is student-centered.  In higher education the focus of educators has changed from the delivering of facts and content to incorporate the teaching of 21st century skills, hence the role of educators has changed from that of an information giver to one in which they become facilitators and guides in the learning process. (Barseghian, 2011).  Therefore, 21st century teachers need to teach students to become 21st century learners, students “who should possess strong content mastery, as well as the “Four Cs”: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.” (National Education Association, 2015).  So the question remains, how do we really teach critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity through the use of social media?

The fact that students now have the ability to access information at anytime, anywhere and from anyplace means that educators must guide their students to credible resources and teach them about information literacy.  According to Prasanna Bharti (2014) “information literacy means having the ability to recognize the quality of information.”  Educators must act as a guide when using social media to ensure that students are assessing the resources that they are retrieving information from, this ensures that students are using credible resources for their research.  “After collecting the information, students should be able to synthesize and present.  This process of creating, analyzing and evaluating information with proper exposure to social media helps students to develop critical thinking.” (Bharti, P., 2014).

In his article “How Social Media has Changed the Traditional Classroom”, Teddy Hunt (2014) suggests that by using social media the methods in which teachers and students communicate has changed.  Students can now connect with their teachers outside of the classroom from the comfort of their own home and can get timely replies to questions they may have regarding content taught in class or an upcoming assignment.  Shy students, who typically would not participate in class, are now able to have a voice and share their thoughts through social media enabling instructors to get a true sense of participation that they may not have seen in the past. “Social media allows students, faculty, scholars, and the public at-large to communicate and collaborate in ways that disregard institutional boundaries.” (Coleman, V., 2013).

Hunt (2014) also shares with us the fact that students are using “social media pages and groups that provide an easy-to-use forum for discussing classroom topics and working through difficult problems together” (p.2).  Hunt feels that students who collaborate through social media for educational purposes are developing better communication and team-building skills, not just with their peers but with their instructors as well.  Tina Barseghian (2011) agrees with Hunt stating that “students are collaborating with each other through social media to learn more about specific subjects, to test out ideas and theories, to learn facts, and to gauge each others’ opinions.”

Pens and pencils are still tools used in the classroom today but 21st century educators are now incorporating interactive tools to capture the attention of their students and encourage creativity within them.  “Creating media is another noteworthy tech-driven initiative in education.  Media permeates our lives, and the better able students are to create and communicate with media, the better connected they’ll be to global events and to the working world.” (Barseghian, T., 2011).  Educators can encourage their student’s creativity through the creation of a YouTube video in place of a classroom presentation, a blog to share their thoughts or feelings on topics of interest to them, or a LinkedIn profile to develop on online portfolio.

In the video “The Role of the 21st Century Teacher”, Rice-Parsons (2012) does an excellent job of exploring the various roles educators have had to take on in the 21st century.  She shares that educators who incorporate social media in their classroom now have to act as:

  • Moderators- by ensuring relevant content is being introduced to students and to ensure responsible and respectful use of social media platforms
  • Guides- by posting relevant content related links to guide students through the research process and to teach skills for finding and analyzing credible resources
  • Assessors- by knowing how to use various assessment methods to motivate students and knowing when to step aside to allow students to develop the skills on their own
  • Facilitators- by promoting collaboration amongst students and initiating conversations online for students to participate in which reiterates course content
  • Model- by emulating the respectful and responsible behaviour, while using social media, that one expects from their students
  • Lifelong Learners- by learning and incorporating new teaching methods in their courses and engaging in professional development

“Preparing students to compete in a global economy and expanding their ability to use technology wisely, competently, and effectively is now a major requirement for school boards.” (Council of Ontario Directors of Education, 2011).  As you can see social media does help educators to reach these goals, so are you ready to incorporate its’ use in your classroom?


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