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The Influence Of Social Media On Education

The influence of social media on education

As a millennial, I saw the rise of social media only during the final years of my university studies. At that time, I did not have a laptop computer, so computing work was limited to being at a desktop. It would be years until I would have a smartphone. So, it is safe to say that I got through my studies without the influence of social media.

It is also safe to say that social media, and especially having social media on our cellphones, has changed the way in which we study and teach.

As I walk on campus, I’m always observing those around me who walk while scrolling on their phone. I always wonder what is so important that it cannot wait until the person has reached their destination, and I always wonder when, as a society, we thought that it is socially acceptable to do so (I am still the person who steps aside to answer a text message, if I must, then puts the phone away, and then continues walking).

But I digress. Today, I want to reflect on how social media (on our phones) has changed education. Here is what I observe:

  • Gamification: Luckily, lecturing like a “sage on the stage” is not acceptable anymore. Instead, we are now thinking much more about how we can find an optimal equilibrium between the fun of playing quick games (as introduced by some of the old Facebook games) with learning objectives.
  • Shorter attention spans: Scrolling is the opposite of having hours of deep contemplation. As a result, spending the full lecture hour on deriving a complex mechanical concept is a challenge. I am still contemplating ways to teach from first principles in short bursts that match the 21st century attention span.
  • Need for concise explanations: One step to match shorter attention spans, is to be able to capture complex concepts with a concise explanation. I find this a fascinating challenge, as getting to a concise explanation forces me to really get to the gist of the problem.
  • Note-taking is gone: I hardly ever see students with old-fashioned notebooks in class. Some type notes on their computer, some use a tablet, but most of them just listen to the lecture. When I saw this change occur, I was worried, and I still think that note-taking is a good practice, but it may be a practice that is going extinct.
  • More interaction: When things go well, it is much easier to interact with students who are used to have a “public presence” developed through social media. They are more eager to speak up, interact, voice their opinions, and are less held back by a certain fear of The Professor.

Which changes in student learning and teaching do you think come from social media on cellphones?

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