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My Own Social Media Experiment

March 28, 2011

Yes, we all know Marc Prensky’s argument about Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants.  And, yes, most would agree our students are good with computers to a degree.  When it comes to FaceBook, guaranteed a student can teach you something about it you don’t know.  Be sure to pay particular attention to Vicki Davis’s FaceBook Friending 101 for Schools.  If you are a teacher, you NEED to understand this.

But, did you ever notice what happens when you try and introduce a tool or a technology concept for productivity & creativity?  Sometimes, students push back.  They don’t always understand how the tools can actually be educational and fun at the same time.  At least, this is my experience.  Reading and participating in a discussion on David Truss’s An Authentic Audience Matters prompted me to write this post because my students always respond better when they know there will be an audience beyond just me.

Sometimes, it is difficult to get students (or anyone, for that matter, but I’ll stick with students because that is what I know best) started in learning how to truly immerse themselves in the social aspects of technology.  Technology truly does need to be as invisible as the air we breathe and it can be.  So, here’s what I did.  I started small.  We recently rolled out Google Apps for Education school-wide.  I set up a Google Group for my class.

Three weeks ago, I sent a message to all of my students via the Google Group that said, “Anyone who responds to this message and explains one thing discussed in class today gets five bonus points.”  Of my roughly ninety students in this course, I got about seven responses.  It should be noted, the Google Group message was sent out late on Friday evening that weekend and students had until Monday morning, before school, to respond.

Thanks to Heidi Siwak and an idea I noticed in Social Media is the Game Changer, here’s what I did last night.  While it wasn’t exclusive to Twitter, it went something like this:

Jim Gates

I sent a message to my students via our Google Group around 8:00PM on Sunday night.  This message said, “Need any more bonus?  Respond to this message for two points.  If you tweet it, text it, call your friends, post as you FaceBook status, and another student mentions they got word from you, you get FIVE points.”

Guess what?  By 11:00PM on Sunday night, I gave out bonus points to over THIRTY of the ninety students. By 8:00AM today, I gave out bonus to an additional eighteen students.  In just changing one thing I did, I just reached nearly half of my students.  I could have said, “the first ten students to respond will get bonus,” in order to foster competition. But, I tried a bit of that several weeks ago.  In Heidi’s words, “Competition 0, Collaboration 1.”

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2011 7:52 PM

    How fun!
    I wonder if there can’t be some kind of ‘social credit’ or group reward rather than ‘bonus points’ for an activity like this?

    I completely agree with this: “…did you ever notice what happens when you try and introduce a tool or a technology concept for productivity & creativity? Sometimes, students push back. They don’t always understand how the tools can actually be educational and fun at the same time. At least, this is my experience.” It has been the same in my experience too.

    Currently a teacher at my school is having students write comments on one of my blog posts about online rules/expectations and they are doing a horrible job… despite this (great) teacher talking in advance about ‘what makes a good comment’ and digital permanence etc. The fact is, they just don’t know! We can’t assume that these ‘natives’ understand how to be effective users of social media unless we help them. I’m excited to see what kind of comments these students will come up with in 3 months… that will tell a story!

    Thanks for extending the conversation, and for sharing so thoughtfully on my blog!

    • March 28, 2011 8:05 PM

      I’ve been thinking on that same idea, but the bonus worked on-the-fly, so to speak. I don’t regularly motivate students this way, but just wanted to test the waters and for me, it proved a small point. Not hard data, but the benefit in class today was when it became clear that students are starting to “get it”.

    • March 29, 2011 5:39 AM

      When my students started using social media, their writing was poor. I found it interesting because I have a decent group of writers this year who do well with paper and pencil. When I pointed this out, my students’ response was, “You don’t have to follow rules, it’s like Facebook.”
      I realized that Facebook was not the problem, but lack of instruction in how to write in social media was. Students have essentially taught themselves how to write in digital media. This is why the need for teachers will never disappear. It becomes our job to help students learn how to communicate effectively within new media forms.

      • March 29, 2011 7:04 AM

        I have the same experience, Heidi. “This is why the need for teachers will never disappear.” Excellent observation! The digital world is another ball game when it comes to how students navigate and operate within it, and yes, they need to be taught what is appropriate or not when and where. Thank you for commenting.

      • March 29, 2011 7:39 AM

        Here is a neat story that relates to lack of ‘normal’ writing conventions online…

        I started a Science blog and asked students to pick a controversial topic and just report it out… they didn’t have to take a side if they didn’t want to, (I thought I could get them to flush this out in the comments).

        One girl did hers on cloning sheep. I think in the 3 sentences she wrote, maybe 5 words were not MSN talk, (this was ’06 or ’07 and Middle Schoolers were into MSN not Facebook). It waz rly bdong!

        At recess I asked her if I could use hers as an example, and I talked about how although MSN talk might hava a place… the Science blog would not be one of them! After lunch, I went to use her post as an example again with another class and it had been changed! Perfect English, and the quality of the response was better than her original comment too. Thing is the only break she had was lunchtime and she shouldn’t have had access to a computer at lunch.

        The lesson was learned! 🙂


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