This post summarizes my first stage on the road to my final project for ETEC 642.
As has been noted by others doing this project, one does not get a random sample by asking about social media via social media. On the other hand, for a new and specialized system of communication, some expertise is essential. I choose the term “personal learning network” (PLN) because much of my learning online goes beyond academia and my other professional interests, and hence is not simply a “professional learning network.” In my PLN are people from a wide array of cultures, professions, and viewpoints. I further selected for those who are educators or seem most intent on continued learning.
I chose to take two paths in the survey: simple questions with a single response and longer qualitative questions. In my experience as a researcher, a nebulous question requires qualitative input to establish parameters first, followed by more specific survey instruments. Without time to develop the project in order, I included both. The qualitative answers were enlightening.
- Please indicate what social media tool you use most each week.
- How often do you use social media?
- If you use more than one type of social media, which one is most important for your personal learning?
- Why do you think social media is important for your learning (or not)?
- Any other comments about the idea of learning in social media?
I posted my survey using Google Forms, and sent the link to particular friends on Facebook and Google +, and via email. I chose particular people I thought would be willing to respond, given that I do survey research and cannot burn out my network. Fifteen people responded. While the survey is ostensibly anonymous, I can tell that the participants included a particular journalist and a musician, along with a social activist and a couple of educators. Their longer responses are shared below, sufficiently anonymized for some privacy.
Participants overwhelmingly prefer Facebook for their primary interaction
They use social media frequently, almost all indicating daily or constant use
In terms of their primary mode for learning, participants diverged greatly with 4 FB, 3 G+, one Twitter, and several responses that were not actually social media tools.
A summary of themes emerging in qualitative data:
- Broad reach. Connects and informs across regions and cultures.
- Open and frank dialogue- authentic sharing
- Provides views not otherwise (locally or remotely) available
- Immediacy of sharing- events as they happen
- Educationally, connects broad learning communities
- Gateway to interesting ideas that can be pursued elsewhere
- Provides professional connections and opportunities
- Provides a novel avenue for social awareness and protest
The rates of usage were not surprising, with Facebook being by far the most popular social media system. In a sample this small, there can be no statistical significance, and the sample was skewed by using Facebook and Google+ as recruitment tools. Given that even my closer friends on G+ also use FB it is likely that more respondents would primarily use FB. The sample is further biased given that those who use social media more would naturally be more likely to see the request and respond, which explains why all but one participant uses social media daily or constantly.
The more interesting information is in the qualitative data, where the real motivations are revealed. Of particular interest is the immediacy of the medium, which allowed serious journalism to happen, for instance, in dire circumstances. Generally, frankness and immediacy stretching across cultures and regions seem most salient in the responses.
Qualitative data in the raw:
The longer qualitative answers are presented below, because several are comprehensive and highly nuanced.
Why do you think social media is important for your learning (or not)?
- It is immediate and has a broad reach but can be customized to my own interests and connections.
- For me, as a journalist it’s vitally important as it affords a platform of open and frank dialogue and robust debate. I’ve learnt a lot about how and what people really think. Topics such as Middle Eastern issues, political issues and other topics such as national security and foreign policy are intensive topics that are censored in the main stream media. Social media has allowed me to learn from others views in a way that they may otherwise not have shared. I have an international audience on my facebook with people from Israel, Palestine and across the Arab world, in addition to many people from across the West, Asia and the Sub Continent so for me, facebook particularly has allowed me to learn from others views on these tough topics which have helped me both academically and also in my broadcasting job. I have also used FB to find guests to interview, I’ve also used it to post my radio broadcasts. Twitter was also very important to my broadcasting role when I was living in the Middle East. I joined Twitter Feb 2009 and at the time, in Dubai the media (and still is) was very censored. A country like the UAE doesn’t afford free speech to its citizens and expatriates who make up 90 pc of the population in Dubai, about 80 pc UAE wide. Twitter allowed me to communicate honestly and frankly with my listeners when I was broadcasting live talk back radio out of Dubai from a State owned network in a way that I couldn’t do through the traditional radio broadcast. The authorities in the UAE were completely unaware of what Twitter was or how it worked so they were not monitoring it, as such it allowed me to learn from the audience what they really thought about any given topic I was talking about on air. It also afforded me the ability to share my views on Twitter with my listeners in a frank and transparent way that I couldn’t do on air. This really brought the community together, it removed the barrier that existed in a censored environment and allowed for a real sense of freedom of expression.
- It connects people in different spaces and give a cultural conxt
- Lateral information networks allow for more authentic sharing of ideas and information.
- Helps keep me up to date with what is going on in the world.
- The use of social media has the potential to expand student interest by exposure to a broad group of people interested in the same subject. Online education has removed the traditional classroom face-to-face discussions.
- social learning, how to live and play with each other and understanding society and the role or impact that i do have on society and the planet is very important.
- I have a friends list of people who are very intelligent, diverse and hunger for information and knowledge. When the post on their status something fascinating, I am likely to follow up via Google.
- I get it from people u trust and value
- Connects me with many, many professionals.
- introduces me to new ideas and hot topics, which I might follow up with a google or Wikipedia search.
- Used as a tool social media can be focused to expose the user to his or her specific areas of interest and find like minded people. Those like minded people can share their specific interests which I find often gives new perspectives and ideas and even whole new topics of interest.
- I’ve never associated FB with learning, just a way to see what others are doing.
- With music, I can listen to an interview, or a lesson with the artist who wrote the music, for more insight to interpretation.
- Although I try to follow EdTech groups and keep up on current events via social media, I feel I learn the most from keeping around a diverse list of people with occasionally different perspectives. I get my Hawaii news, my cultural and news items of interest from Black friends, reflection from my token Libertarians, pop culture and civil rights info from my queer friends, Turkish uprising information, and even (from one college buddy) a window into the Singapore theater scene. Social media isn’t just for keeping up with people far away, or passing around meme images, or being horrified by family members’ racism or politics. I learn when I keep up with my current interests, but I am able to learn more when I keep my mind open by keeping my eyes on the larger currents.
Any other comments about the idea of learning in social media?
- Make it fun and it (learning) will grow and expand boundaries.
- it is a kind of community consciousness that we learn from.
- More insight to fan interest. What types of songs elicit more response….
- Social media gets dismissed as shallow and shoddy thinking, passed around without reflection. It’s not all like that, though. In my experience, you just have to be willing to not be too invested in convincing other people they are wrong and more in listening and considering how people got to that other point of view. I see it as a place not for deepening learning, but as a source of touchstones you must pursue on your own.
- It also helps me 1) see what is current and 2) find my market.
- I would want groups monitored, especially for younger students. Many groups now have trouble with “trolls” entering with intentions that differ from the group’s.
- Love to see it!
- Along with FB, Twitter is also vital in its role of affording true freedom of speech. The online community is given the authority to correct itself and others rather than being governed by laws around speech. It’s a testing ground at the moment for challenging authority. It’s shaping a new way of thinking both good and bad for the sustainability of humanity both online and off line. On the other hand, social media seems to have created a thinking vacuum (if such a thing exists) as a result of information overload combined with the concept of the 24 hour news cycle. Questions can be raised about whether the avalanche of information provided through social media actually encourages people to develop their cognitive processes by really thinking deeper and learning more. Does having access to endless social media prompt people to create value in information or is the overload of information devaluing information and our potential to really learn? People forget to think and social media seems to have a sinister way of somehow giving us heaps of information, lulling us into the idea that we know more but making us ignorant and lazy at the same time. It conjures up the image of seagulls just gorging on anything that seems to fall their way. Desensitising and devaluing society through too much information and not enough thinking I think is actually leading to an increase in mental health issues including depression and a load of other things. Our ability to analyse and give value and importance to what really matters is becoming vitally important as we face an ongoing and increasing bombardment of information available to us through social media.