American University Hosts Social Learning Summit

April 21, 2011

2:15 am

American University hosted its very first Social Learning Summit earlier this month. The event was produced by the AU Social Media Club and was a huge success. You might be asking yourself, “What exactly is social learning?” Take a second to think about the multitude of avenues you have these days to communicate. With over 250 million websites, 140 million tweets per day, and 500 million Facebook users who create 30 billion pieces of content a month, there is no doubt that we are living in the social age. With more ways to communicate instantaneously than ever, it comes as a surprise that higher education institutions haven’t fully figured out how to incorporate these social tools into the classroom. I share the belief with the AU Social Media Club that learning is social, and it is conversational. People have been learning this way for the past century. With all the social technologies we have today, it is time to start thinking about how we can use them to promote education. This conference shed some light on just that as well as other topics within the social media realm.

The Highlight
The keynote panel discussed the current state of higher education and the rapid evolution of modern education with social media and technology. It was moderated by Sarah Kessler (Reporter, Mashable) and comprised of:

  • Patrick Foster (Digital Solutions, USA TODAY)
  • Jon Hussey (Manager of Web Communications, AU)
  • Yong Lee ( Acting Director, SMCEDU), Andi Narvaez (SMCEDU Advisory Board Member)
  • Scott Talan ( Asst. Professor, AU School of Communication)
  • Rhonda Zaharna (Asst. Professor, AU School of Communication)
  • Alex Priest (President, AU Social Media Club)

The panel took time to highlight some of the benefits of using social media at universities and colleges. Everyone knows that it is virtually impossible to keep students off their social networks while in class. Put bluntly, it’s just a wasted effort. So instead of calling students out for using social media in class, the panel discussed how it can be utilized for educational purposes. A prime example was put on display during the keynote in the form of tweets with #sls11 hashtags projected onto a screen behind the speakers. With this, the audience was able to engage in the conversation without verbally saying anything.

With all the conversation about social media and education, some interesting questions came up:

  • How do you prevent social media from being a distraction in class?
  • How do you keep students from using it to cheat?
  • Will Social Media 101 be a future class?

Perhaps we don’t fully know how to answer these questions yet, but with all the advancement in communication and higher education racing to catch up, it seems inevitable that colleges will need to adopt these technologies and answer these questions.

Breakout Sessions
The conference consisted of 18 breakout sessions spaced out over April 2nd and 3rd. Here is a list of the sessions and a brief description of what was discussed:

  • When Parents Tweet: The Social Media Generation Gap – Discussed the alleged “generation gap” in social and digital media.
  • Becoming Budding Bloggers – Explored the how and why of blogging for students and how it can be used to learn from each other and with each other.
  • Slacktivism Or Activisim? Liking Our Way To A Better World – Is this generation of students less motivated to truly act than in the past? Or are they simply armed with different tools?
  • The Facebook Candidate: Public Lives In Public Office – Discussed today’s “Facebook Candidates” and how the public world of social media has impacted modern political elections.
  • Tweet Your Way To The Top: Social Media And The Job Search – Focused on strategies and stories of how social media can impact your future career.
  • The Child Named Facebook: Social Media And The Rest Of The World – Gave an international perspective on social media.
  • Social Startups: Startups And Social Media – Focused on social media’s involvement in business and how it can help your startup.
  • Going Green On The Social Web: Advocating For The Earth And Science – Explored how social media has been used and can be used as an effective outlet for environmental and scientific causes and advocacy.
  • Practice Safe Text: Safe Practices For The Social Media Generation – Provided insight on how to do social media safely and responsibly.
  • Transparent Politics: Governing In A New Media World – Took a look at Gov2.0 and how social media is changing the way our politicians actually try to get things done.
  • Peace Through Tweets: PeaceBuilding and Crisis Management In A Connected World – Spoke about how social media is playing a key role in making the world a little bit better place and how you can get involved in the process.
  • YouTube, Vimeo and Vevo, Oh My! Social Media on Camera – Explored all aspects of social media behind the camera.
  • Where Do You Draw Your Line? Defining TMI On Social Networks – Brought together some of the most colorful people on the social web to talk about what they thought was too much, and how to set standards for your social media activity.
  • The Connected Classroom – Showcased ideas and innovations incorporating social learning and technology into today’s modern classroom.
  • The New Media: Journalism In The Social Age – Took a look at how social media is, and has already, revolutionized the journalistic landscape.
  • A Social Bill Of Rights: Civil Rights And Social Media – Spotlighted how social media has become a phenomenal resource for standing up for what you believe in, including civil rights and equality.
  • An App For Everything: Mobile’s Role In Higher Ed – Explored how mobile devices and technology can fit into the classroom equation, if at all.
  • Blogging The District: How To Be Hyperlocal – Discussed how “hyperlocal” blogs have had an impact on their communities.

Kudos to Alex Priest (founder and president of the AU Social Media Club) and the entire AU Social Media Club group of students at American University who had the foresight to plan and execute such a great event.

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Henry Sams is a Tech Cocktail intern, college student, and Washington, D.C. metro native who has a passion for new technology and marketing through social media. He has always been interested in new tech innovations, start-ups, and gadgets and would like to create a start-up of his own some day.

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