Technology with a purpose

A friend of mine complained today that an undergraduate geography professor is requiring students to sign up for a bunch of social networks – Twitter, Google+, and a few others.  they were told that they have to tweet each other, follow each other, etc., very similar to what we are doing in this class, except with one major difference.  The social media part of the course isn’t mentioned in the syllabus, and the professor has not told the students how tweeting and posting fit in with the objectives of the course.  In a face to face course where students already communicate, the extra social media communications are superfluous.  From what my friend said, the students taking the course are really unhappy.

I think this situation brings up a really important point.  If an instructor wants to incorporate social media tools into a course, they can’t take an “everything but the kitchen sink approach.”  Unless the course is about social media, asking students to sign up and keep track of four or five different accounts, in addition to regular course assignments, is a recipe for disaster (or bad course evaluations).  If the professor doesn’t connect the use of social media to the course objectives, then students will feel that it’s busy work or useless.

Another aspect that troubled my friend was the privacy issue.  He prefers to have a minimal presence online, and he is uncomfortable with the Terms of Use for most social networking sites.  Facebook owns our posts.  Instagram owns our photographs.  Anyone who is concerned about privacy and ownership of content is unable to use social networking sites.  Where does this leave the student, who is required to create an account and sign away these rights in order to participate in the class?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think the answer is to expect students to sign up for social media because “it’s fun” or “it makes the course more interesting.”  Technology for the sake of technology can’t be the answer.  The use of social media in a course has to be backed up with solid pedagogical reasons.  It has to be clear how social media fits in with the objectives and benefits students in a way that they won’t get from anything else (like an in-class discussion).  Still, what do we do for students with very real concerns about privacy or, God forbid, safety?

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2 thoughts on “Technology with a purpose

  1. Oh, I agree! Technology inclusion must serve a purpose for learning and backed by solid pedagogical reasons. The use of social media in that geography should be justified. It’s frustrating when educators just throw in technology for the sake of saying that they use it. :-/

  2. Excellent points! My professor in another ITEC course I am taking right now posted the question just last week, asking if we thought he should include various social medias into the course. What I appreciated about his post was that he asked those questions are you are referring to: Would adding them improve things, or would they simply be something else to do? What are the privacy concerns? Would they replace Blackboard Learn, or be in addition to it? And what do we suggest is done with students who choose not to use those forms of technology? Like your friend’s class, our class came back with resounding NOs! Privacy, especially concerning Facebook, was mentioned. Everyone that commented about it said that they use Facebook for personal use, and they did not want to necessarily have classmates they don’t really know, accessing their information. Someone also commented that at least with Twitter you can create multiple accounts, so if you wanted a private account and a KSU account, you could do that, whereas you can’t really do that with Facebook. The consensus seemed to be that adding social media to that particular class would not be educationally beneficial. You are absolutely right…adding the technology just because it is available is not the answer. There needs to be a clear, educational reason for it!

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