TIES2012 (II). Neil Selwyn: Social media, social learning? Considering the limits of the ‘social turn’ in contemporary educational technology

Notes from the III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight, in Barcelona, Spain, in January 1-3, 2012. More notes on this event under the tag ties2012.

Neil Selwyn
Social media, social learning? Considering the limits of the ‘social turn’ in contemporary educational technology.

It has become very difficult to talk about the Internet without talking about social media: the default will be social.

What are the key features of social media and what is their significance to contemporary education and learning? How are social media applications currently being used in education and/or by learners? What are the limitations — if any — of these new media in the educational field? What changes does education need to perform to adapt to the new social media landscape?

Internet applications have also transformed the concept of authorship: massive amounts of people create, share, distribute, remix content all the time, most of the times unintentionally or tacitly. There is now mass socialisation and mass participation. Internet

Different (philosophical) points of view on social media

  • Increase informality
  • Increase individualism, decentralizes power.
  • Increases collectivism, is the group using a common shared tool.

Social media and education:

  • Engaging: students like social media, so why should not education be using it?
  • Empowering: anyone can create content, learn, etc.

Social media and educational institutions:

  • Implies a deep reorganisation of educational institutions, making them more fluid, flexible.
  • Can imply the replacement of educational institutions.

Social media as a context for learning: inquiry, collaboration, publication, literacy. But this hardly works within the boundaries of institutions. There still is a limited institutional use of social medial.

On the other hand, there are uneven levels of social media interest, access and usage amongst students. The “digital native” is a myth: there are (HJargittai & Hsieh, 2010) omnivores, devotees, samplers dabblers and non-users; or (Eynon & Mamlberg, 2011) active participators, all-rounders, normatives and peripherals. And social media is not levelling the ground, but just the contrary.

There also is a commodified nature of social media use. What you do on social media becomes a commodity: it is more important not what you did, but how many people liked it or followed it, how many people gave value to it… but you. And this affects people’s behavior.

And what happens with non-participation? Not to speak about the quality of participation: There is the usual rule of thumb of 1% people creating, 9% engaging/commenting and 90% just watching.

So, what should we do?

Are there differences in social media as a ‘learning technology’ as opposed to a ‘living technology’?
how do the creative, communal an productive practices and activities associated with social media fit with the practices and activities that are dominant in educational settings?<7p>

How could the educational community be better involved in shaping forms of social media along different, more educationally-orientated lines?

How can the educational community challenge the shaping of social media by commercial forces and other established elites?

Now that we are past the stage of hype and also the stage of disillusionment, now that we are reaching the “plateau of productivity” of these new technologies, we can reflect quietly and thoroughly about all these questions.

III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight (2012)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2012) “TIES2012 (II). Neil Selwyn: Social media, social learning? Considering the limits of the ‘social turn’ in contemporary educational technology” In ICTlogy, #101, February 2012. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=3892

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