COLUMBIA — Between Twitter and Facebook, along with other blogs and networking sites that we now call social media, individuals have a lot to choose from when trying to connect over the Internet.
Columbia educators and college administrators use social media for a variety of purposes. For some, social media is used mainly for social purposes, but for others, these sites are used as tools to teach and to connect with the community.
Educators, however, find themselves with mixed opinions about the role of social media in higher education and its importance in the classroom. Some see it as the technology of tomorrow, an important piece to the puzzle of connecting with students, while others try it doubtingly in their classrooms, assuming that the traditional face-to-face contact cannot be replaced.
More people worldwide are using social media. Comscore.com, which tracks Internet activity trends, reported that in April, social networking grew to 140 million users worldwide. Facebook had 67.5 million visitors, and Twitter had 17 million visitors. The MU Facebook network now has about 45,000 profiles attached to it.
The UM system has used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and podcasts for 18 months, spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead said, and many MU departments have social networking pages such as Facebook or Twitter.
Some people find social media to be a positive experience for education.
"We’re globally connected,” said Jason Ohler, a former professor of education technology at the University of Alaska, now a media psychology professor at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif. “It only makes sense to be globally connected when we pursue education."
Some Columbia students are not so easily persuaded.
"I don't really care. It (social media) probably wouldn't help. It's social type stuff — we're trying to learn,” said Michael Phillip, a 20-year-old junior mechanical engineering major at MU. "It wouldn't be distracting. It just wouldn't be necessary."
With technology still advancing and opinions about social media differing, time will tell where social media fits in.
What do you think of using social media sites in the education system?