May 4, 2015
I have this theory that if you are effective on social media then you stand a good chance of being effective in online teaching. How do these two activities go together?
Two words: presence and community.
The people who seem to get the most out of social media are those who dedicate themselves to being present on their platform of choice. Presence does not necessarily mean contribution. You can be present in the IHE community if you show up daily to read the articles and opinion pieces. You can also be present if you regularly provide your opinions in a comment, even if your commenting is on every 1-in-50 articles. The power of IHE is that we are a community that is informed by both a common set of interests, and a common pool of content. We are all reading, thinking about, and commenting on the same articles and opinion pieces.
On Twitter, being present means actively (on a daily basis), committing to interact with the platform. This may mean writing your own tweets, using Twitter to link to other things that you’ve read or seen on the Web, or simply using Twitter to filter what you consume. Presence on Twitter means that the people who follow you will reliably learn things from you. You build a community around the people you follow. We should always be suspicious of anyone who follows too many Twitter feeds, as above a certain number (maybe 500 follows at most), Twitter moves from a community to a promotional platform.
The goal to invest in presence and achieve community are also the two hallmarks of effective online teaching. If you teach online you need be present. This does not mean answering every single discussion thread, or constantly putting up just-in-time videos to explain concepts. Rather, presence can take the form of active listening. Of knowing when it is time to contribute, when it is time to guide, and when it makes more sense to step back and let the conversation play out. Effective online teaching is vastly time consuming. It takes a commitment to concerted and focused effort to effectively facilitate an online class. The best online courses develop a close-knit and trusting community feel. Faculty cannot guarantee that an energetic and positive learning community will develop in an online class, but they can take steps to move the class towards that goal. The most important step is to state the development of a learning community up-front in the course objectives, and then to design the assignments and interactions in a way that fosters that community.
Does investing in presence and community, the two aspects key for both social media and online teaching success, translate to success in residential teaching? Is someone who is good at social media also more likely to be good in a physical classroom? Possibly, but not always. There are perfomative elements to classroom teaching (particularly lecturing) that do not translate well into the social media or online teaching environments. Someone who is really good at social media or online teaching is someone who is committed to being part of a larger conversation. If you are teaching a large enrollment course, then you probably need to bring a pretty high level of charismatic energy to the class sessions. This is one of the reasons why residential teaching in larger enrollment classes can be both so exhilarating and so exhausting.
How does this argument about the importance of presence and community for social media and online teaching success apply to blended learning? How does this argument apply to MOOCs?
How do you think about the relationship between how we use social media and how we think about our teaching?
Do you think that improving our social media practices can also have the impact of improving our teaching?
Is there anyone studying the relationship between pedagogical and social media experimentation and innovation?
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