Reviews of Three Useful Social Media Tools

There are so many social media tools available today, that it can make an eLearning Designer’s head spin.  As mentioned in a pervious post, it is best to start with one tool at a time.  In this post, I’ll discuss the possible usefulness and potential disadvantages to  using three popular tools in your virtual classrooms.  Select one and try it out!

Twitter

Twitter is a messaging service that encourages users to answer the question, “What are you doing?”  Tweets (the messages) are limited to 140 characters.  This is also known as microblogging.  Users can compose and send their own tweets, or repost tweets from others (which is called “retweeting”). Users can follow other users (similar to friending on Facebook), and then see those tweets in their “twitter feed” (like Facebook’s wall).

The Center for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) has been publishing a list of the Top 100 Tools for Learning, since 2007.  Twitter has been the number one tool for the past three years. Since Twitter is so popular (many of your students are probably already using it), it is worth considering for use in online education.

I think that the best way to look at using Twitter in online learning is to examine whether the objectives of your course involve:

  • starting conversations (class discussions, critical thinking assignments)
  • creating community (the class, the school, the field, global)
  • research – learning new information or staying current in a quickly changing field (so many tweets contain links to published articles and information)
  • seeking opinions (polls, special topic conversations)

Twitter can be used as a course element if one or more of these objectives are present.  There are endless ideas.  Here are a few to get you started:

  • Create a network around a shared interest
  • Class discussion
  • Collaborate on a project
  • Research current information
  • Create personal learning networks
  • Communicate administrative details to students
  • Provide instant feedback
  • Create a global learning community

There are endless links for more information.  Here are just a few:

50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Education

Three Practical Ideas for Using Twitter in E-Learning (by Tom Kuhlmann)

The Ultimate Twitter Guidebook for Teachers

Twitter for Educational Purposes – A Tutorial (slideshare presentation)

As with every tool, there are some potential disadvantages to using Twitter in eLearning.  Make sure that you address them to avoid problems.

  1. Use Twitter yourself before incorporating it into your virtual classroom.  Set up your own Twitter account and really get to know Twitter before you start using it with your students.  You will look like an amateur if you jump in before you are ready.  You have to know enough to be able to help students who are new to Twitter.  Don’t start until you feel that you can help others.
  2. Have a strategy.  Carol Cooper-Taylor in the 50 Ideas in Using Twitter for Education link above writes, “without a strategy, it’s just typing.”  Without a strategy, Twitter can also waste a lot of time and distract you and your students from more important endeavors.  Decide how you will use it first.  Make your strategy realistic.  Don’t ask to much of yourself or your students.
  3. Tie it into grading somehow.  If a student is not graded somehow, at least on their level of participation, it can become a burden to them, and many will not join in on the conversation.

Quizlet (www.Quizlet.com)

According to their website, Quizlet is the largest independent study site in the US with over 2.78 million registered users.  Quizlet uses flash cards (using words and/or pictures), quizzes and a collection of study games to facilitate studying online.  The quizzes and games are generated from the flash cards.  Users (instructors and/or learners) create flashcard sets that can be shared with the Quizlet community, and can even be linked to Facebook or Twitter accounts, or embedded onto a website.  Users can search for and utilize flashcard sets created by others.  There are also 15 mobile applications that use the Quizlet API, so that users can study from their smart phones, Palms, and tablets.  It is number 82 on the C4LPT list of the top 100 Tools for Learning mentioned earlier in this post.

Use this social media tool if your course content involves memorization.  Rote memorization can often be boring, and Quizlet aims to make it more fun.  Some subjects that would benefit from a memory retention aide include:

  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • Foreign languages
  • Math
  • Chemistry
  • History
  • Any topic that has terminology and concepts that must be memorized.

eLearning Designers can incorporate Quizlet into their courses in many ways, including: instructor-created flashcard sets and review games, home study, tools for parents to help children at home, friendly competition (e.g. fastest quiz time).

Since this tool has a singular focus (assisting with memorization), there are few disadvantages.  It is fairly simple to use, but you do have to put both a word (or phrase) and a definition when creating a flashcard set.  This can be a drawback if studying spelling only.  For example, today, my daughter was notified of a last minute opportunity to participate in a spelling bee tomorrow.  She was given a list of 300 words to study.  I wanted to just enter the words, but Quizlet required me to enter a definition as well, which took too long, so I had to abandon the tool.  I also tried to use the spelling test option, which was supposed to speak each word, but this did not work for me.  This was yet another reason to abandon it for this particular project.  Other than my somewhat unique situation, I see few other disadvantages.

PollEverywhere (www.polleverywhere.com)

Poll Everywhere is a web-based polling service that allows eLearning Designers to engage students directly by gathering live poll responses and displaying real-time results on animated charts.  There are four ways to vote:

  • text message
  • smartphone web browser
  • Twitter tweet
  • computer web browser

Questions can be multiple choice or open-ended.  The results are immediately visible to participants either by projecting the results onto a screen or viewing the results on the web. Results can be downloaded to a computer, uploaded to a blog, posted via Twitter, or inserted into a PowerPoint.

Engaging students is the quest of every online instructor.  This tool provides endless opportunities to do this, and has almost unlimited uses in a real or virtual classroom.  Here are just s few ideas:

  • Ice Breakers – help students get to know each other via polls at the beginning of the course
  • Check students’ understanding of a topic
  • Collect data for a science experiment
  • Ask students what they are thinking about literally anything
  • Respond to a discussion topic
  • Brainstorming
  • Pop Quizzes
  • Offer a homework help poll where students can submit their questions about a topic or assignment
  • Class awards
  • Q & A
  • Feedback

There are few disadvantages with Poll Everywhere.  For some, the expense can be a factor.  It is actually reasonably priced, and free for up to 40 responses per poll.  The free account does not allow the instructor to approve/disapprove responses, so student guidelines must be established for open-ended questions in order to keep inappropriate responses to a minimum.  Also, it seems to be a bit tricky to integrate poll results into a PowerPoint.  Here is a tutorial.

 

So now you have three more options to consider as you strive to integrate more social media into your eLearning Design projects.  Which one will you start with?

 

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