SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, while walking my dog alongside Golden Road in County Tipperary, a text message postulating the effect McLuhan would have on toasters appeared on my phone. I followed it back to its source and discovered an interesting channel on Jaiku (#ixdm78). The short bursts of text on the channel helped me revise a lecture I was preparing on McLuhan and validated the role of microblogging in my life. Today, I share some of those lessons and offer practical tips in social media for a small group of educators attending DIT e-learning week in Aungier Street, Dublin, Ireland. I attend the DIT e-learning week every year, because it's interesting and the group dynamic chisels away at some of my work processes. The give-and-take in the workshops amount to a sort of peer review for me. This year, it is time to talk about the role online social networking plays in better higher education.
It is fair to say that few college lecturers share my enthusiasm for integrating yet another widget into their teaching processes. And it is often inappropriate to try to assess learning as part of a flow of online chatter. However, since my college duties keep me at the front line of creative multimedia development, I can dive into social media alongside students who would rather watch online video than read online course materials.
As the Irish Internet Association’s (IIA) working group on social media has documented, the largest chunk of time spent by those active in Irish web usage is spent at social sites such as MySpace, Bebo, boards.ie, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. Analysts calls these places “social media sites” and commercial software can block them from use by employees during the business day since some managers consider them to be time-wasting diversions. Not so in vibrant academic curricula that I have monitored during the past two years.
Part of the DIT e-learning week offers a focus on inexpensive or completely free tools that will enhance higher education. The week of structured activities includes a discussion platform for educators to discover ways to improve the delivery of web courses and to stay abreast new developments for classroom use.
Back in Tipperary Institute, a semester-long academic module in Social Media launches in January 2009 to explore specific online internet properties through the lens of creativity. At the same time, the IIA may offer day-long workshops in social media. Both of these educational ventures would showcase social media cleverly integrating audio and visual content from disparate locations.
At the start of every academic year, I ask students to share their media consumption habits. Their experiences mirror those of society. We live in a world where we tune in and manage our own media. A generation ago, individual media control meant tuning the knobs on the family car radio or on the television. Today, these knobs are in pockets and purses. We carry music tracks on our phones, iPods and MP3 players. We might have newsfeeds on our laptops or on our phones. All of these devices can gather content from shared spaces, making them social media harvesters.
On services like FriendFeed or with shared bookmarks like del.icio.us or Ma.gnolia.com, people spot interesting things and share them. This type of online sharing is like a thumbs-up or a sign of vitality. These activities have become part of the way smart companies manage their communications.
For some Irish companies and for some educational institutions, the arrival of interactive social media at the desktop could mean changing internal processes. As some companies have discovered, listening to social media channels offers an effective and direct means of customer contact. Two-way activity with social media provides a touch point for media queries and a pulse point for clients. In fact, effective social media communications has become an important skill.
Some of these newly-defined skills involve using mobile phones to communicate with a wider audience. In my own experience with several Series 60 Nokia phones, I have made videos for YouTube and added photos from live events to Flickr. By standing in a free and open wifi hotspot, it cost me nothing to upload these items.
Free services such as Qik, Seesmic and Mogulus enhance your message by sharing an authentic background with your audience. When uploaded to a channel on YouTube or shared through a newsfeed subscription on Qik.com, they promote brands, improve the delivery of academic lectures and help boost a new product or service.
At the DIT e-learning week, no one thinks the entire academic programme should revolve around social media. However, as the IIA has documented and as educators at the Internet Experience in Education Conference learned in Thurles, students and customers enjoy today’s evolution of social media.
In determining the secret techniques that make effective social media part of your product suite, you could start by listening online to the IIA as it rolls out its own social media awareness programme--it's an audio experiment we have started and it should be ready for prime time in July 2008. If you have a marketing campaign under your control, you might learn how to personify, enhance, and translate a traditional marketing plan in a social space where the consumers actively talk, listen and view. And if you have time around noon in Greenwich on the 24th of June, you might jump into the flow at Twitter (#dit) or Jaiku (#ieec) to share your thoughts with educators who are seeing social media at work for the first time.
Previously: Social Media Plumbers and some names.
Following the #dit on Hashtags.
Listening in the Social Media Ireland Room on FriendFeed.
Learning and Technology Training -- "All about Webcourses"
The IEEC channel was set up with primary and secondary school teachers in Ireland and ixdm78 was set up by Gabriela Avram in UL.