Social Media and the Impact on Adult Education – Trends and Roles

Social Media and the Impact on Adult Education – Trends and Roles
With Joanne Schwartz as a Learning Partner

The assignment for PIDP 3100 to create a Blog, to be used throughout the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program as a resource and medium for sharing knowledge, was pretty exciting. I work with technology every day, but have little opportunity in my daily work to delve into my creative side. I was assigned Joanne as a learning partner in this exercise and found it to be a pretty good match. We are both professionals who use technology in our employment, we both have teaching components to our jobs, and we both wanted to be efficient in completing the assignment so that we can move along quickly to the next step in the program. A topic that was interesting to both of us is the emergence of social media and its impact on adult education

Emerging Trends: Using Social Media in Education:
Social media has exploded in recent years. Facebook allows us to create online profiles, post things that interest us, connect with others and see their interests, and keep in touch with friends and family among many other uses. There is also Instagram for sharing photos; Pinterest for sharing projects; Twitter for sharing status updates; LinkedIn for connecting professionally; and so many more. Social networking can be an incredible tool for connecting people and sharing knowledge. Ravenscroft, Warburton, Hatzipanagos & Conole (2012) in their editorial “Designing and evaluating social media for learning: shaping social networking into social learning?” (See Resourcez page) the authors explore new ways to use social networking to enhance learning. Lifelong learning involves not only formal but informal learning, and the authors explore the potential that these two types of learning can be supported in the same digital space through “the sharing of common digital literacies.” Ailene Baxter (2014), in her article “Social Media Fosters Professional Learning and Collaboration” (See Resourcez page) sees social media as a tool to allow teachers to learn from one another, connect and collaborate. I am experiencing right now, through the PIDP, the interconnection between the formal and informal learning and the use of social media (Facebook, Blogging, Moodle) to enhance learning and connect students to one another and to the instructor. I am producing this Blog, to share knowledge and create a resource for myself and others and it is exciting to be involved in this new and emerging trend in education!

The Role of the Educator: Using Social Media in Education
So what, then, is the role of the educator in the implementation of strategies to incorporate social media into adult education? The role of the instructor really is variable, and can change depending on the content being taught, and the audience doing the learning. In the past, the teacher was the talking head, the imparter of knowledge, the authority in the classroom. But in today’s society, there is so much content available online, so many resources, so much stimulation, that the role of the educator must change. An educator really must be a facilitator of learning, someone who can create an environment that engages and stimulates students to create their own learning paradigm. An educator must help create that bridge between formal and informal learning so that students can enhance their own learning. However, with adult education, students will present with a range of technology skills. Xie, Watkins, Golbeck and Huang (2012) in their article “Understanding and Changing Older Adults’ Perceptions and Learning of Social Media” present one of the problems in adult education – what to do if your audience is not technically savvy. How can social media a play a role in education if the students have no clue how to use it, or even what it is? The educator in this case, then, must be able to gauge his learners’ skills and modify the curriculum or delivery method to either include lessons on using social media, or to allow alternatives to using it in the course.

Reflections on Skype conversation:
Speaking with Joanne about her own research into social media and the impact on adult education it seems that she as well found that the role of the instructor must involve an evaluation of the competency of adult learners in using social media and a need to establish and maintain boundaries for the use of social media in the educational context. There are also always concerns regarding privacy, and the interconnection of private lives and educational lives – how much do we want to share with others via social media, and should we establish separate online identities for the various aspects of our lives (personal/professional/educational)?

With respect to emerging trends in education involving social media, using Youtube to present video recorded lessons, Facebook to ask questions, and other applications to share and elicit immediate feedback, teachers can reach far more students in their educational careers than they otherwise could have. Additionally, students can have any-time access to materials that they can watch again and again, until they have a full understanding of concepts. Joanne also pointed out the irony of using Skype in a course to discuss the use of social media in education! I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Joanne on Skype and came away with a better concept of the ways that social media can have an impact on adult learners, both positively and negatively.

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