Posted by: Undeclared Scientist | August 28, 2009

social media (with no caps)

As I sit here rediscovering Zeppelin for the 1,034th time, I’m becoming increasingly incensed over so-called “smart” software. Apple released their latest OS, Snow Leopard, today but maybe they should take some time and look at the fuck-ups that they are still selling…like Remote Desktop 3.0. My assignment yesterday here at the center was to use Remote Desktop to install a ton of software on our lab of MacBooks (haptics, what?) but supriiiiiise! Remote Desktop != The Balls. In the time it has taken me to realize this “smart” software is actually riding the short bus I could have manually installed the software on all these machines.

But I digress from the spirit of this particular blog-o-sphere. Fall is upon us and school is in the soon to be chilled New England air. As I start my 3rd year as a PTL, my thoughts have been lingering on the recent influx of social media in the classroom arguments. Technology is practically my soulmate, I use it on a constant, minute-to-minute basis. I work at a center devoted to using technology in the classroom to engage and intrinsically motivate students. Yet, I use practically no technology in my classroom and I believe this current social media in education movement is complete bullshit. Why you ask? Because a great man once said:

“Software isn’t worth the silicon it’s written on without curriculum” ~ Jim Kaput

As a PTL with a full plate of life in front of me I do not have the luxury of being able to develop a comprehensive curriculum on my own. The curriculum I employ for my Introduction to Programming in C course follows a great book (Problem Solving and Program Design in C) and my own style of teaching (class discussion + some whiteboard shenanigans – powerpoint boring = results!). My students react well to this and, for the most part, they have succeeded more than with other versions of my course (purely qualitative proof, however). If I were to find or develop a curriculum rich in technology that was proven to work (like, you know, research and studies and junk) I would adopt it…after my own personal research.

And there we have my issue with this quagmire of integrating social media into education (I’ve stopped using caps for the term to illuminate my hate). Where are the studies showing a curriculum enhanced by social media (also, wtf does social media even mean? someone give me a definition that isn’t PR/marketing bullshit) improves student learning, motivation or participation? Its going down the same road as technology in the classroom during the 90’s. Throw some myFaces in your classroom and, TA DA!, you’re kids get smarter. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Yes, it would be, but just like tech in the 90’s  it will be a false promise. Soon the public will realize that posting your class information on Facebook is stupid and not helping the situation. Thus leading to a revolt over using social media in the classroom. Of course, by the time this all happens people like me and you and the other folks on this here blog will have found great uses for Social Media in the classroom (our version gets caps) leading to an uphill battle for adoption because 10 years earlier a bunch of marketing douchebags decided PR is better than R&D.

I write this because, as you can tell, there is a very strong voice on this blog against social media and we have all been questioned before about our strong words. It is not because we feel that social media is the bane of all existence (though sometimes I may). My reason (I will let others speak for themselves) is because social media is a very new thing; so new, in fact, that I still call it a “thing”. Nothing should ever be wholly adopted because “the kids use it” or “its just so damned cool” or “it’s everywhere!”. No, there needs to be a reason for adoption. It is only now, over a decade after the “dot boom”, that we are starting to successfully implement that technology in our classrooms (instead of the 90’s mantra, “give them a computer and genius will come”). Recently, there have been many crazies spouting off unfounded crazy about using social media in the classroom and, you may argue, that it is harmless. However, when people start to listen and act on the crazy (and they are) history will repeat itself. It is important that we, as educators and scientists, and you, as conscientious citizens, demand rigor and research regarding what is adopted in the classroom.

Over the next few years researchers, educators, policy makers and even students need to look at the affordances of social media and research how to turn it into Social Media in the classroom.



  1. A real social media study:

    What (real) researchers have noticed is that you can’t just dive into the new with this kind of stuff. You need to understand what drives it.

    I should stop delaying my post on Tweaching…

  2. yes, stop being a god damned slacker

  3. Here’s my simple non-marketing definition of social media:

    Media driven by social interaction and characterized by highly accessible forms of publishing.

    In analogy form, the ease of use and motivation behind telephones comes to the world of persistent media.

    “Accessible” means it is available to nearly everyone, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that the people who try to wring dollars out of everything jump on it as soon as it becomes at all popular. Also not surprising that these people value “speed to market” over any sort of rigor.

    Problem is, they’re right; the business world is often very stupid about innovation, and first-to-market is often a winner. (At least for a while, and the cycles may be shortening for the short-attention-span crowd).

    None of this means we should ignore accessible socially-driven media platforms and the possibility that they can be used for better purposes. We shouldn’t ignore them at all for many reasons, not the least of which is that their popularity may have a very large effect on a number of our goals.

    It the first person to get a cell phone in your neighborhood is the neighborhood jerk, that doesn’t mean cell phones are bad.

  4. To put this another way, I think “tweaching” is stupid, but if we leave social media to idiots, then the idiots will reign.

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