Finding Sanity in the Madness

Exploring Social Media

#Tech621, A Reflection April 27, 2011

So, we wrapped up our final class meeting last night for Tech621, and I have decided to sort of reflect back and give some thoughts on the class in general, what I have learned, and some general comments on the topics throughout the semester.

When we began this class at the start of the semester, I honestly wasn’t quite sure how the structure would be. I could get an idea by looking at the syllabus, but one can only get so far by reading a timeline about the course. When this class began, I also was oblivious to some of the many SNSs out there, as well as their usefulness and conventions. You could say I started with a less than positive feelings towards blogging and Twitter. Blogging, in my opinion, was something like this: “people who have an online journal and think that others care about what they think”. I felt like it was some pretentious effort in getting attention. With Twitter, I felt like it was just some silly online status update, where people, once again, felt like everyone else needed to know their every move. I do not believe either of those cases anymore. It took time, but through the course of this…course(?) I have come to appreciate blogging and Twitter. There are other uses for them, great uses that can empower, enlighten, and provide insight to ideas that one might not have had. You can be exposed to these ideas as well as engage in meaningful and thoughtful conversation with people that you would never have the chance to otherwise. There are real benefits with these two methods of communication, and I now see that.

My AA #5 involved a RQ that asked what the correlation is with students who take a course in social media and positive feelings towards social media as a strategic communication tool. Unsurprisingly, there was a positive correlation. Students who took a course in social media were more positive in their feelings towards social media. I think when people like myself have these negative feelings initially on a new type of media, it really stems from the unknown. Change is hard, acceptance is hard, and with the volley of new media being thrown at us every day/week/month, how can we ever hope to keep up? Consider the TAM (Technology Acceptance Model) where one weighs the perceived usefulness, and the perceived ease of use. Where something like Twitter fell short for me initially was the perceived lack of usefulness. I didn’t see how it would benefit me. For others, things like blogging might be a daunting task. The perceived ease of use for someone younger might be why typically the demographics of people who actively blog are older. New technologies such as Twitter (I hope) consider the TAM when designing and creating interfaces, uses, advertisements, etc. Could this be a reason why people get angry when Facebook changes? The perceived ease of use changes because they have to learn a new interface.

Lastly, I want to just mention some thoughts about the course in general. I have some more thoughts on social media and the Elaboration Likelihood Model, but I think I will save that for another post. I am thinking now that I could have divided this up into at least 2 posts, but meh,” sounds too much like work” (Miller, 19XX-present). The course this semester was very interesting. I find myself getting more and more interested in combining theories with social media (as evidenced above). ELM, TAM, etc. My favorite lecture was when we had the long discussion on Technological Determinism vs. Human Agency. The theoretical and sort of logical/philosophical debate we had on this topic was fantastic. I am the type of person who loves to discuss ideas such as this (maybe that explains why I LOVE talking/debating topics such as politics and religion?).  The readings throughout the course were a bit much, but I think I could have managed my time a little better. I could see the clear purpose of each paper, but I wonder if focusing on maybe 1-2 fewer papers per week if we could have been more in depth on some and really focus on the ideas they present. I believe we accomplished this with the paper talking about how Google is “making us stupid”. That is, I believe, the paper that lead us into the Technological Determinism vs. Human Agency discussion. The week we had that lecture, I talked about that and debated with my running buddy for hours during our runs that entire week. So much fun.

To close, I just wanted to say what a nice surprise this course gave me. I came in excited and oblivious, but I feel like I am finishing with insight and a wealth of new knowledge, as well as a much more interested outlook on social media. I look forward to my next opportunity to do research in this field, play with Radian6, or even consult friends on some of the topics we discussed. It’s been a fun ride.

Take care, #Tech621, have a safe summer 🙂

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AA #4: Twitter, Students, Learning April 23, 2011

Filed under: Article Review,Research,Social Media — karch10k @ 8:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

This article analysis will be focused on a paper I decided to read into due to it being directly related to our current Tech621 class, as well as a topic we have lightly discussed in the class.

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119-132. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x
The Purpose:

The purpose of this particular paper is to study and determine if Twitter has a significant effect on student interaction, engagement, and achievement (grades). I liked the reasoning they chose for this article, and some of the justifications for choosing Twitter as the channel of choice.
  • The course the researchers chose to use only met once per week for an hour, so Twitter was a good candidate due to being able to quickly and easily be a medium where students could continue the conversation from the single class they had each week
  • More introverted students are able to ask questions outside of class they might not have in front of everyone else. I think this is a true advantage of this technology, as I know many people who have this issue.
  • Helped students become more familiar and comfortable with each other. I feel that during our course this semester, communication on blogs as well as Twitter helped to hasten the familiarity process that happens in any class where you are required to share out loud in front of the class. It is a stress reducer.
These are just a few of the listed reasons, but the ones I felt I most personally could associate with.
The Study:
The study encompassed seven different sections of a first year seminar class for pre-health professional majors. There were 132 students who participated in total, and 125 of them ended up taking the pre-test survey (91% caucasian, 6% latino, 3% native american).  The median age of the participants was about 18 years old. It is also interesting to note that none of the participants had ever used Twitter before.
There was a pre and post test, as well as a control group. After two weeks in the course, the students were divided up. Some of them received a one hour long crash course in Twitter, whereas the others experienced the class as normal. The study lasted for 14 weeks.
The Findings:
There were interesting findings in this article, but many of them I expected (I suppose I have a bit of an insight on using Twitter in the classroom). Some of the more interesting findings were dealing with the participation.
  • In terms of student participation, it was very easy for an instructor to sort of lead the students to begin a study group using Twitter, and after the initial help, students continued to form study groups without the push from the professor.
  • Students scored much higher in engagement while using Twitter than not utilizing it: Tweeting each other, talking online, and continuing conversations.
  • Twitter promoted experience sharing and learning in the classroom. It allowed them to easily discuss and talk about how issues in the course related to their real life experiences.
  • Study also shows a positive correlation on use of Twitter in the classroom and the grades of the students.
Thoughts:
I thought this paper was interesting, but I also feel like it was predictable. Maybe it is simply because we have been using Twitter in the course and I have direct experience with it. It has been a positive experience for me, so I hypothesized a couple of their findings before I even read the paper. I think papers like this are needed. When I tell people what I am interested in for research, and I mention social media, they sort of scoff at me, disregarding any potential use of Facebook or Twitter research. Studies like this has real use and will be important in the evolution of how education works.
A final thought is about future research, or even future implementation. The ideas behind this paper are the backbone of our course. Collaborate, communicate, and engage with fellow students online to further education in a particular field. While we are doing it to “dive into” social media and experience it first hand, you could employ this tactic into almost any subject. I would guess to say that in any major academic field, one could find people in that field Tweeting about their research, and communicating results, articles, findings, etc. I think Twitter has some very real uses and should be encouraged to be used in the classroom, no matter what field or subject area.
I also find it strange to feel about Twitter in the way I do. I was one of “those people” who began this course thinking Twitter was nothing but a stupid means of a status update. Boy was I wrong. I legitimately enjoy using Twitter as a means to touch base and stay in touch with certain individuals. It is to the point where I am all but ignoring Facebook and only being on Twitter. Hopefully in the near future, there will be more professors and other educators waking up to the realization that social media can vastly improve education.