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Resolving the Conflict between Higher Education and Social Media

Submitted by on December 17, 2012 – 8:05 pmNo Comment

Dr. Sarah Smith-Robbins, known to her colleagues and social media followers as “Intellagirl,” gave a terrific Educause seminar on The Conflict Between Educational Technology and Institutional Education, and the Future. In the Educause video recording, Smith-Robbins characterizes the conflict saying that social media is changing access to information and learning. Now social media is education. It is learning, on a massive global scale, outside the purview of academic institutions. If we’re not strategic in our approach to social media, she warns, it could replace traditional educational institutions. After enumerating the traditional roles of the university along with the parallels for each in social media, she provides a new vision for educators’ roles in the changing landscape:

“It’s not about competing with social media, but harnessing its power and acting as guides to help students become lifelong learners in the Information Age.”

Smith-Robbins’ advice is worth considering as you collectively contemplate how to work with social media and individually devise a plan to stay ahead of the curve as an educator. The video recording is a bit lengthier than what we usually show you – it’s well-worth the watch, but here’s a more condensed version in a slideshare presentation:

Educause08: Social Media and Education from Sarah Robbins

Educause08: Social Media and Education from Sarah Robbins

Traditional Roles of the University and Social Media

Here we’ve summarized Smith-Robbins’ description of the near-parallel roles of the university and social media, as well as her vision for the new roles of educators in a world of democratized information.

The University
  1. Membership in intellectual and social affinity groups.
  2. A platform to engage in intellectual discussions and advance your understanding.
  3. Access to scarce resources and subject matter experts.
  4. Official endorsement that links institution’s positive reputation to your own.
  5. A way to accumulate and develop skills for employment.
  6. A way to develop associations with professional communities and organizations.
  7. Guidance through experiences and thought processes by experts you trust.
Social Media
  1. A vehicle for self-expression to create and share with the world through sites like Flickr.
  2. A forum to share knowledge about common interests like the Physics Discussion Forum.
  3. Access to scarce experts and personalities on sites like TED.
  4. A way to enhance your personal and professional reputation through sites like LinkedIn.
  5. A platform to build and share skills, like with tutorial videos on YouTube.
A New Vision for Educators’ Roles in a World of Social Media
  1. Evolve as an institution away from the traditional role of information gatekeeper.
  2. Teach students lifelong learning skills for an information economy.
  3. Develop the skills students need to contribute to online communities.
  4. Help students understand that the new currency in an information economy is what you share.
  5. Develop students’ ability to learn in groups and in communities rather than just on their own.
  6. Serve as the experienced co-creator, rather than the information authority.
  7. Empower and entrust students, helping them to discover their own paths to knowledge, with you as an experienced “online guide”.

We find it interesting that Smith-Robbins gave this presentation several years ago–higher education is now adopting more than ever the educator’s new role in the world of social media.

What do you think?

Share these materials with your colleagues and use them as a conversation starter. Let us know in the discussion thread below what you and your colleagues have to say about educators’ changing roles in this new information economy.   Whitney KilgoreBy Whitney Kilgore Vice President, Learning Technologies




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