Using Social Media to Support Instruction

Earlier this year we mentioned how educators are using social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter and others to extend instruction outside of the classroom, even in cases of inclement weather.  As EducationNews.org reported this week, teachers in California are continuing to incorporate social media into their English classes.  “Rather than just the teacher reading student work, an entire class can read, review and give feedback on other students’ writing.”  Teachers claim that using social media as an educational conduit has also encouraged participation from students that are often too shy to raise their hand in a more traditional classroom setting – giving a voice and outlet to all students. 

And the utilization of social media sites as a tool to supplement instruction is not limited to the English classroom.  At MetaMetrics we’re trying to incorporate popular social media outlets into our own tools.  Our Math at Home utility, which allows students to locate targeted math resources at the right level of difficulty, now includes social networking features.  Based on the Quantile Framework for Mathematics, “Math at Home recommends various resources that students can add to their list of favorites.  Students can then print, email or share their list on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In addition to encouraging participation in the virtual classroom during the school year, social media sites also support year-round instruction efforts by making resources available to students from any place at any time.  This is especially critical during the summer months when research shows so many students are susceptible to summer learning loss. As social media sites near ubiquity we hope that students will take advantage of these tools to review and solidify their skills.

Harvesting the Data: What Social Media Sites May Soon Provide

Popular social media and networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have undoubtedly changed the way we communicate. What many don’t realize is that all those status posts and “likes” and “dislikes” are flooding the Internet with data; usable, searchable, baffling data. According to a recent article in Slate, over 500 million users are accessing Facebook and each of those users is creating an average of 90 pieces of content a month. Slate details how others have decided to utilize this data to examine various trends:

Our first stop is Openbook. The site lets you search public Facebook updates and was created to demonstrate how FB’s privacy settings are confusing: People don’t realize how widely they are sharing personal information. And, indeed, when you do a search like “cheated on my wife,” you discover updates that would’ve been better left in the privacy of one’s own mind. Same with “my boss sucks.”

 From a research standpoint, however, this kind of commentary can be tapped for more useful purposes:

It would be helpful for transportation planners to know the places where people complain the most about traffic. Educators could see the data and sentiment analysis around how a community feels about its local schools.

Facebook’s own data team sifts through their own information searching for trends. One trend they’ve already analyzed is the times of year their users seem to be the happiest.  Using the language of their user’s posts, researchers determined that Americans tend to be happiest on Thanksgiving Day – Mother’s day is a distant second.

There’s much more to be gleaned through the analysis of Facebook data; and much of this data will provide a treasure tr to future researchers.  It would be useful, for example, to analyze the writing level of Facebook’s many users utilizing a metric like The Lexile Framework for Writing, to gauge how the semantic and syntactic ability of writers increase over time.  It might also be useful to assess the writing level of students, in a particular region or area, when writing informally as contrasted with their more formal writing attempts.  Whatever we find in the data, it would certainly be interesting to assess student’s dominant mode of writing in non-assessment situations.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.