Friday, July 23, 2010

How social networking helps teaching (and worries some professors)

Professors crowded into conference rooms here this week to learn how to use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in their classrooms, though some attendees raised privacy issues related to the hypersocial technologies.

About 750 professors and administrators attended the conference on "Emerging Technologies for Online Learning," run jointly by the Sloan Consortium, a nonprofit group to support teaching with technology, and two other educational software and resource providers.

Some attendees stressed that there is a danger that professors would use new technologies just because they seemed cool, rather than for any specific learning goal.

"Everybody talks about using technology, but what is the effect on learning?" said Shari McCurdy Smith, associate director of the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service at the University of Illinois at Springfield, in an interview after the Facebook session. "I think this is a great concern I hear a lot."

She said she has seen some evidence that technology is improving learning, but more research should be done.

The attendance and interest in Facebook surprised her, though. After all, just a few years ago, it seemed that most professors complained about how much time their students frittered away on the service, she said.

Smith's comments were featured in a July 23, 2010, article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Download a PDF of the article