Social Media, Tutors & Learners
People seem to fall into two categories; those who distrust anything to do with social media or those who can’t get enough of it.
The first group feel that social media is only for people who are constantly seeking the attention of others, endlessly informing their friends about every banal event in their lives; “Just making some beans on toast,” for example. To be fair, a glance at any social media web-page provides plenty of evidence that this takes place. There are many people in this group fear that social media can invade their privacy and their fears seem justified by many of the scare stories one hears in the news.
The second group welcome any form of social media, citing wiki-leaks as an example of how it is democratising the news and enabling people all over the world to communicate with each other. We’ve all seen how this is benefiting some parts of the world where in the past ordinary people didn’t have a voice. The most extreme members of this group are so nerdy they’ll latch onto any new fad that comes on the scene – just so they can look cleverer than everybody else. Furthermore, social media, like any relatively new trend, is a way of making money.
The two most popular and well-known social media forums are Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is the oldest; it has been around since 2004 and is already viewed by some movers and shakers as past its sell-by-date. Twitter has just celebrated its fifth birthday and is bigger than ever. Facebook users tend to employ it as a way of keeping touch with people they know, for example; friends and family, whereas Twitter users exploit its networking potential. Both social media outlets have their own strengths and weaknesses, however.
On Twitter one is limited to 140 characters therefore you have to be very creative in how you use it. Facebook provides far more room and it is easier to link photographs and other files to your posts. You are able to do this in Twitter but it requires using other applications (apps).
What has this got to do with being a Tutor or Learner?
You may well ask. Firstly, as anybody who knows anything about education knows, it is becoming increasingly hard to enrol enough learners to fill a course.
A few months ago I decided to try out some new approaches to attract learners to my courses. In my spare time recently I have been blogging, so I thought it would be useful to start blogs about the courses I have been working on for the WEA.
I’ve heard the word “blog” but what is one exactly?
A blog is simply a piece of writing about any topic posted on the internet by a member of the public. Anybody can set up a blog; it’s essentially a free bit of webspace. I use http://wordpress.com/ but there are many other blog-providers.
Blogs are useful because they are free to set up and can be updated as you go along. This enables you to post any materials, such as hand-outs, onto your blog and you can even post examples of learners work onto it (if they are agreeable). I think this can be quite an exciting new way of recording learning and promoting courses in the future.
I’ll go into more detail about how blogs can be used in the near future, but this is still a work-in-progress for me as I’m sure you can appreciate.
But how would people even know my blog exists?
This is where Facebook and Twitter come in. If you create a blog about a course you can use the both of these to let people know about it.
You can create an account on Twitter and Facebook in the same way as creating an email account. I’ll go into more detail about using each of these outlets very soon, but first things first here is a guide to making effective use of them.
1) You will need “followers” (Twitter) or “friends” (Facebook). Start by friending people you know, they will follow you back. Since they will have more followers than you, ask them to “share” (Facebook) or “re-tweet” (Twitter) any of your posts about your blog, etc.
2) Try to remember that these are social networks. It’s no use only posting information about your courses because it will put people off following you. It is worth engaging people in conversation and this will increase your following.
3) If you create a blog and want to post a link to it you can either copy the whole web-address or use “share” on your Google tool-bar (or similar). You will actually see Twitter and Facebook among the options and this will shorten the web-address (when using Twitter this is very useful).
4) Quite often people on Twitter and Facebook will create “groups” of people who share common interests, for example; art, politics, music, languages, books, etc. It is worth looking out for these, as they could contain like-minded people and/or potential learners.
5) There are lots of bloggers about education on the internet and many of these have some very interesting ideas. As well as offering opportunities for you to spread the word about your courses, it is worth reading many of these.
6) Social media attracts many interesting people but it also attracts people who become labelled as “trolls”. For some reason there are many people out there who feel that they have to criticise and snipe at others in order to feel alive. The best way of dealing with them is to ignore them, but if they get too annoying you can “block” them quite easily.
7) Don’t panic if you are the only user you can see in your time-line. That simply means that you aren’t following enough people. Simply follow some more and that will help.
I hope some of this has proved useful. I’ll be posting some more detailed guides about blogging and social media soon, but any questions email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave some comments. The great thing about blogging and social media is interaction, so if anybody has something they’d like to add, I’d be delighted to post it.