Friday, July 29, 2016

Social Media for You and Me? (summary)

Social Media for You and Me?
A reflective summary
by Paul Beaufait

First of all, I'd like to thank the directorate and membership of PIGATE for the opportunity that Mr. Hirotaka Terada and I had to make an extended presentation about social media for PIGATE, at Kumamoto Gakuen University (KGU) on June 11th, 2016. It was encouraging to see how determined the director, Mr. Nobuyuki Takaki, and other members of the group were to resume PIGATE-style grassroots teacher development activities, in spite of severe consequences of earthquakes in Kumamoto. I'd like to extend special thanks to Prof. Joseph Tomei for making arrangements for the PIGATE group to meet at KGU in both June and July.

In the aftermath of the tremors, which necessitated cancellation of the PIGATE gathering in May, it was a challenge to plan and develop contributions for a joint presentation entirely at a distance. Though Terada and I had exchanged a few ideas face-to-face after the meeting in April, we depended completely upon internet communication technology (ICT) from then until we met again at KGU a few minutes before the June meeting began. So this had become an opportunity to both explore and employ handy and useful online media in collaborative presentation development.

Beyond 1) basic email service (Gmail) underpinning our initial contacts and endeavours, 2) a social networking service that both presenters use regularly (LINE), and 3) a shared Google presentation around and on which to collaborate; possible social media upon which to focus our presentation were virtually uncountable (see: The Conversation Prism 4, 2014, below).

Our shared Google presentation, now public on the PIGATE Blog (2016.06.12), included pretest and posttest items to assess audience members' knowledge and beliefs with regard to the nature of social media and uses of them. Pretest responses, the presenters hoped, would lay a foundation for a working definition of social media. Initial discussion of personal and professional purposes rounded out common characteristics of social media that Obar & Wildman (2015) had identified, namely:

  • Internet-based applications (apps),
  • User-generated content,
  • User- and group-specific profiles for apps or websites, and
  • Networking services facilitating connections amongst users and groups.

As had a couple of PIGATE members who'd responded to the Monthly Special prompt for the Dec. 2015 newsletter (No. 267, 2016.01.01, pp. 27-28,, Terada expressed a preference for online communication via LINE (Free calls and messages). So the presenters used LINE for Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoiP, calls to talk through research and development of their presentation, as well as for text messages to arrange and follow-up on those VoIP calls.

Terada's findings reflected extended discussions with twenty classmates and friends, who'd used mainly LINE, Facebook, and Twitter, and to a lesser extent Instagram. Those discussions explored various merits and demerits of social networking service (SNS) use, as well as trouble that users or their friends had encountered. In a nutshell, Terada found such SNSs useful for one-way distribution of information, yet problematic when responses were desirable or necessary.

Beaufait pointed out benefits of social media use that the Online Learning Consortium (2016) had reported for online instructional programs, in particular potential for:

  1. Learner engagement (and retention),
  2. Instructional effectiveness–achieving desired learning outcomes, and
  3. Provisions of career and educational support services.

Beaufait also called attention to passive (automatically collected) and active (individually produced) data found in so-called digital footprints, or virtual representations of our real-life selves (Oglethorpe, 2012). Such footprints may work either against or for job-seekers, professional program applicants, or students in general. Beaufait noted that, in the eyes of some schools, "A Google search result is your portfolio" (Leigh Blackall, Teaching and learning online [TALO] Google group mailing list, 2016.06.01, emphasis added).

Discussion periods throughout the presentation explored numerous questions–many more than possible to answer in-session to everyone's satisfaction, for example:

  • What's social about social media–if people use them merely as tools for broadcasting personal information, rather than for facilitating and promoting educational exchanges or socially responsible endeavours;
  • What changes may be taking place in attitudes and practices with respect to privacy and control of personal information in highly-interconnected online communities, groups, and networks; and
  • What can we as educators and language learners do to maximize benefits and minimize risks of social media use, for both personal and professional purposes, as well as for students–young ones in particular, whom we may serve as trail-breakers, role-models, guides, or coaches?

Among the references for our presentation in the slideshow on the PIGATE Blog, I'd like to highlight Davis (2015) as the source for Web-guides for teachers (currently slide 54), and to double up on Couros (2011, 2013, 2016a, & 2016b). George Couros (@George Couros, not only granted permission for use of a custom graphic in animation of Bringing community into classrooms (currently slide 58), but also has provided numerous examples and suggestions of ways to use Twitter for professional development purposes.

In wrapping up here, I'd like to encourage everyone, social media users and non-users alike, to review public pre- and post-session tweets here ( I also hope you'll take active parts in on-going and future conversations and explorations of potential uses for social media in additional language and professional network development–for both learning and teaching purposes.

Please allow me to close with thanks to all who took part in the June gathering, and a reminder from our presentation (Social media sufficiency, currently slide 62):

"[C]ollaborative conversations alone are often not enough to promote teacher learning and change. Teachers must try complex innovations, and reflect upon these implementations in order to extract from experience the knowledge that leads to improved teaching."
(Alderton, Brunsell, & Bariexca, 2011)

Paul Beaufait ボーフェ ポール
Prefectural University of Kumamoto 熊本県立大学

Version 20160729b
This is a revised version of an article that
originally appeared in PIGATE Newsletter 272 (2016.07.04).
[989 words]

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