Students at Purdue University in Indiana are using a social networking-powered web application called Hotseat to engage in real-time classroom discussions while professors are delivering their lectures.
The application allows students to send in comments and questions through Facebook, Twitter, instant messages or the Hotseat website without interrupting the instructor. The live feed of student responses is displayed on a screen at the front of the class and can also be followed online. Students are able to vote on posts by others, enabling professors to prioritize class discussions around collective questions and issues.
Hotseat not only enhances collaborative classroom learning, but is giving students greater influence over how and what they’re learning by enabling teachers to adjust course content according to their needs.
The program, developed at the university, is currently being pilot tested in two Purdue courses before its school-wide implementation for the 2010 academic year.
Though Canada’s major institutions have embraced e-learning with streaming lectures and web-based learning systems such as Web CT, the use of microblogs and blogs in higher education is still an emerging trend. Twitter, however, is increasingly finding its way into classrooms as a ubiquitous forum and peer-tutoring platform. Australia’s Griffith University has even made Twitter part of the compulsory course load for student journalists.
By introducing social media technologies like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and wikis into traditional classroom environments, institutionalized education is moving towards the democratization and personalization of student learning. But for some instructors Hotseat presents a new set of challenges in the classroom. As it helps move away from the strict one-way communication between students and teachers and helps resolve the age-old issue of passive learning, it doesn’t warrant productive interaction and may open the door to distractions. Take for example, one student’s question during a class discussion of mutual funds or bond issues, which inquired as to how “Craig is the most bada-Bond.”
It also raises the issue of whether professors are comfortable with students challenging and correcting them in real-time. Purdue’s Personal Finance Instructor Sugato Chakravarty sees comments and corrections as a positive thing saying, “In one class I mentioned the wrong president during the 1929 Depression and immediately about a dozen comments came in correcting me. This shows the students are engaged. But not every professor may embrace this aspect.”
In the end, the decision to incorporate social media and Web 2.0 applications in the classroom should be made by the teachers since it may not be appropriate for all courses.
The benefits of using social media in the classroom:
• Encourages student to contribute to the lesson in an active manner
• Increases student engagement
• Enhances knowledge-building and sharing of skills
• Promotes community building
• Allows real-time, synchronous or asynchronous collaboration between instructor and students
• Allows 24/7 online access to course material after school
• Promotes negotiation of class material
• Provides a platform for course announcements and readings
• Supplements lectures or class presentations
• Allows constructive and public feedback from peers
• Increases learning by allowing collaboration and competition between peers
The downsides to using social media in the classroom:
• Facilitators require courses on how to use and capitalize on the technologies
• Requires high speed Internet access for streaming media and downloads
• Requires high-tech requirements computer resources
• Open to misuse (i.e., harassment, humiliation, victimization and classroom distractions)
• Vulnerable to vandalism and abuse if technologies are left in a public area
• May cause discomfort for students who do not want written assignments and responses to be viewable to all
• Facilitates plagiarism of online resources