As noted in Blogs and Social Media Play Important Roles in Helping Scientists Engage the Public, a recent Pew Internet Research study showed that more scientists are using blogs and social media to communicate with the public than ever before. The data lends fresh support to those who tout the benefits of and inherent value in using social media, blogs, and other technologies in the academic sector. As Dr. Patrick Dunleavy points out in this post by the London School of Economics and Political Science Impact Blog, “in research terms blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.”

But if scientists are more engaged in social media and blogs, would it follow that those instructing would-be scientists are also utilizing social media and blogs in the actual learning environment? In the article Concerns and Tips on Utilizing Social Media in the Classroom on the Pearson Research & Innovation Network Blog, Pearson staff note that, “[i]n 2013, 41 percent of teachers in the study reported using social media in their teaching, a number higher than the previous four years. While Facebook was the number one social media tool for teachers’ personal use, blogs and wikis were number one for their teaching use.”

faculty using social media graph

Promising news, yes – but the actual integration of digital media and new technologies into the classroom is dependent upon the perceived value and then actual ideas for incorporating that technology into instruction. Dr. Larry Cuban, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, notes in Predictions about Technology in K-12 and Higher Education for 2025 that while there are teachers that, “imaginatively and creatively integrated new devices and social media seamlessly into their daily lessons to advance student learning,” the existence of technologies and digital media only ensures that the options are there – they still need to be acted upon to affect academic achievement. “[I]t is the teacher who is the key player in learning”.

In Conversations on Digital Pedagogy, Dr. Derek Bruff further explains that conversations on educational technology need to encompass how to actually apply those principles in the classroom. Bruff writes that instructors, “don’t want to stay in the realm of abstraction. Instructors want to know what these principles look like in practice, so that they can imagine how to implement the principles in their own classrooms.”

The title of this post by University of Northern Iowa Associate Professor Dr. Leigh Zeitz might just say it all: Using Technology vs Technology Integration – The Difference Defines Success. As Dr. Zeitz explains, “One of the toughest parts about leading educators toward using technology to engage learning is getting past talking about using technology for the sake of using technology to using technology to engage learning.”

Fair enough. But what might these principles look like when actually applied in the classroom?

In a recent Above the Law post entitled Today’s Tech: How An Associate Dean Uses Social Media in his Classroom, attorney and blog author Nicole Black profiled Thaddeus Hoffmeister, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Professor of Law at the University of Dayton Law School. In his social media law course, Dean Hoffmeister has students use social media – and actively blog – throughout the course. “Thaddeus believes that by teaching his students how to blog and use social media effectively,” Black writes, “he is preparing his students to better compete in a marketplace that is increasingly influenced by online interactions.”

Other law school professors also embrace the enhanced connection that such digital integration affords students, something that Black noted in a previous post profiling Alyson Carrel, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Assistant Director for the Center for Negotiation and Mediation at Northwestern Law School. Black writes that: “As [Carrel] explains, at the end of the day, it’s all about preparing them to be better lawyers: “I want the classroom to be relevant to students and reflect the world they’re in and not be just an academic bubble. So the more I can teach them about understanding and creatively using technology, the better they’ll be able to interact with clients and be on the forefront of new ways of delivering legal services.”

Through a process described in the blog post Digital Identity Mapping, Virginia Tech English instructor Traci Gardner found a successful way to have students comprehend existing and potential connections that exist online. She began with having students map out an initial perspective of their online identities. As her students progressed through the project, “[r]ather than going with the first idea that came to mind, students had to think deeply about the different places and identities that they had developed online. As a result, students had more evidence to use as they developed their identity statements. They quickly went from having little to say to choosing among a variety of options.”

As someone who was also inspired by Gardner’s DIM post, Dr. Stephen Bernhardt and colleagues were able to apply a similar pre- and post-assessment strategy as explained in the post Personal Learning Networks. Dr. Bernhardt writes, “In all cases, students ought to be better learners, better researchers, with more connected and complex networks for learning what they need to know.

“They ought also to be more self-aware of what they do when they need to learn something,” he concludes. “That’s one outcome worth measuring.”

Image: Sean MacEntee licensed CC BY 2.0