“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
~ Helen Keller
Concurring with Helen Keller, researchers have noted that learning is more effective when students share thoughts, methods and information. New Yorker business columnist James Surowiecki describes the concept of “wisdom of crowds” where large groups of people are seen to be better at decision making, problem solving and smarter on the whole than individuals or so called experts. This type of group education involves sharing, contributing, reflecting and listening and is referred to as collaborative learning, which has been shown to support deeper and more personal understandings.
Social media is one method educators are utilizing to make this collaborative interaction between learners a reality. Through the use of numerous collaborative authoring tools, social media provides opportunities for both synchronous (where students work together at the same time) and asynchronous collaboration (where students work together at different times). In these scenarios, each member of the collaborative team leaves with new knowledge and understandings as a result of their interaction with their other group members. By utilizing social media tools, students are placed in an environment within which they feel comfortable communicating as sites like Facebook lend themselves to a structure of communication more akin to their natural communication patterns (Coad, 2013).
Social media not only allows learning to occur collaboratively by facilitating the sharing and comparing of student opinions and viewpoints through “conversation, dialogue and mutual critique” (Friesen & Lowe, 2012) but also facilitates the effortless exchange of information between individuals and across different social media platforms (Jenkins et al, 2006). Additionally, these tools build feelings of community and interconnectedness amongst users which encourages students to actively participate in the collective building of knowledge (Solomon & Schrum, 2007). Tools such as blogs and wikis specifically, afford student reflection, communication and networking towards the creation of a piece of writing that is authentic and meaningful to them. These “collaborative, networked, online writing spaces” demonstrate the evolution of literacy to include both the “taking in and the giving back of words” (Dobson & Willinsky, 2009). This give and take approach forges learning partnerships between students and affords a collection of information that extends far beyond what was capable prior.
Take some time to explore some social media examples which exemplify a shared collaborative experience amongst students.
Example of Collaborative Writing using Twitter – http://c4lpt.co.uk/social-media/how-to-use-twitter-for-social-learning/collaborative-writing-on-twitter/
Examples of Collaborative Writing Programs: http://ictkm.cgiar.org/2009/05/29/wikis-sites-docs-and-pads-the-many-flavours-of-collaborative-writing/
Building Fantasy Worlds Together with Collaborative Writing Project: http://www.academia.edu/565797/Building_Fantasy_Worlds_Together_with_Collaborative_Writing_Creative_Social_and_Pedagogic_Challenges
A Compilation of Social Media Tools for Collaborative Writing: http://ictkm.cgiar.org/2009/05/29/wikis-sites-docs-and-pads-the-many-flavours-of-collaborative-writing/
Now that you have become familiar with some spaces of collaboration, and have a framework as to how these spaces facilitate a dynamic approach to collective knowledge, let’s turn our attention to how social media and its affordances impacts education at the student level to answer this question, “How does social media motivate literacy in today’s learner?“