Essay: Get Smart with Social Media

This essay is about how social media can be used for educational purposes.  It was originally turned in on April 4, 2010.  Please note that the works cited are published in the old style, and the rules for formatting the works cited page have since changed (so don’t imitate the formatting when you do your own paper). :)

Get Smart with Social Media
by Edie Montgomery-Pool

Think of what it must have been like long ago when the knife was invented and what people must have thought of that “new technology.”  On one hand, it made life much easier (hunting, cooking, crafting items); on the other hand, it could be used for terrible things (destruction, fighting, murder).  This leads to the question:  is the knife good or evil?  The answer is, of course, neither.  Like all human inventions, it can be used for both.  Similarly, social media can be used for helpful or harmful purposes.  It is not the internet or websites themselves that are either good or evil, but the user’s intention which defines their use and their usefulness.

is the internet evil?Since there seems to be an abundance of media proclaiming the evils of the internet, let us focus our attention today on one of the good things that have come out of this new technology.  Specifically, one of the good ways in which people are using social media today is for educational purposes.  There are many sites that can be used for education.  I, personally, have found YouTube.com to be helpful this semester for my Speech class.  In particular, I have gotten extremely useful information from Scott of hellomynameisscott.com via his Expert Village videos.  Scott’s videos are usually less than two minutes long and address a number of critical elements one needs to be aware of when giving a speech.  Subjects include how to prepare, use openers, use body language, use one’s voice, engage an audience, and end a speech.

hello my name is scottSome of the things I learned from watching Scott’s videos have not yet been covered in class.  I feel that having viewed the videos gives me a major advantage when delivering my speeches and improves my grade.  The friendly, informal tone of the videos also engages me and holds my attention more than a formal lecture or dry textbook.  Speech tips are just one of many things that can be learned from this site.  There are numerous videos on virtually any educational topic one can think of.  A search for the keyword “grammar” turned up 13,600 videos, including those fun little School House Rock cartoons that use catchy songs to teach while entertaining.  If a student is struggling with their algebra assignment, a search for “algebra help” turns up over 5,000 videos.  The possibilities go on from there.  What student wouldn’t benefit from utilizing this great resource?

internet for educationAdditionally, the people who run YouTube, recognizing the value of education in social media, just launched a companion site called YouTube EDU.  According to The Official YouTube Blog (http://youtube-global.blogspot.com/2009/03/higher-education-for-all.html), the EDU site will be hosting videos from various colleges, including MIT and Yale.  Among other things, the videos will consist of “cutting-edge research and lectures by professors and world-renowned thought leaders.”  The potential benefits of bringing together great academic minds from all over the world are endless.  It has the potential to generate new ideas, speed up research, and promote cross-cultural cooperation in academic areas.  As technology expands more and more, so, too, does the circle in which scientists and other intellectuals work.  The leading thinkers of our time increasingly have the world at their fingertips, and the new YouTube EDU site will add yet another layer to that amazing process.

internet for educationYouTube isn’t the only social media site that can and has been used for education.  An article published in March 2008 on CollegeDegree.com entitled “The Facebook Classroom: 25 Facebook Apps That Are Perfect for Online Education” lists software applications, known as “apps,” that can help students have a more productive school life.  The apps include Flashcards which allows students to create customized flashcards on FaceBook; Notely which organizes a student’s calendar, notes, and assignments; and Study Groups which allows students to form online study groups.  These are only a few of the many educational apps that are available on FaceBook to students around the world.  While it is true that students can choose to use FaceBook as a means to chat with their friends or entertain themselves rather than do their homework, they also have the option to use it to enhance their school experience, knowledge, and, consequently, their grades.  It is up to them to choose how to best utilize this social media site to benefit them.

internet good or evilLike YouTube and FaceBook, Twitter can also be used as an educational tool.  People might overlook Twitter’s education potential because of the fact that it is a “microblog,” meaning that users can only post very short messages (140 characters or less).  However, great things often come in small packages.  Many prestigious institutions already use Twitter, and a quick subscription to these accounts could prove to be extremely educational.  For instance, The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world according to their Twitter page (@librarycongress), tweets links to their blog posts about such things as book discussions and lectures, new collections being added to or displayed at the library, and online exhibits.  (Twitter accounts are identified by an “@” symbol in front of the user name, and when someone puts information on the internet via Twitter, it is called “tweeting.”)

nasa twitterNASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (@nasa), links back to educational material on their website via Twitter.  They also tweet mission updates and launch countdowns (“T minus 5 minutes and counting”), which put the subscriber right in the middle of the action.  The Grammar Girl Twitter page (@grammargirl) is run by Mignon Fogarty who wrote “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” a New York Times bestselling book about grammar.  She offers quick tips like, “You shouldn’t have semicolons in your list unless the list items themselves contain commas.” She also answers specific questions from people regarding grammar.

Twitter has made large institutions, authors, and other educational sources easily accessible to average people around the world.  Twitter’s educational potential doesn’t stop there, either.  Some instructors are starting to use it as an active part of their classroom:  instructors like David Parry, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.  According to a January 2008 article in Wired Campus titled “A Professor’s Tips for Using Twitter in the Classroom,” Parry felt that the instantly accessible Twitter messages brought his classroom together as a community.  He stated, “It was the single thing that changed the classroom dynamics more than anything I’ve ever done teaching.”

In a related blog post by Parry in January 2008 on the website academHack, Parry lists the ways in which Twitter could be potentially useful to the academic world.  These include tracking words, events, conferences, and people (such as professionals in a given field); instant feedback for students wanting clarification on a subject or assignment (other students can respond instantly to their question); and as a public notepad which Parry states is particularly useful for creative-type classes.

computers in schoolAdditionally, Twitter in the classroom is not just for higher education.  According to a June 2008 article in Education Week titled “Educators Test the Limits of Twitter Microblogging Tool,” George Mayo, an eighth grade English teacher in Maryland, is also using Twitter as an education tool.  He used Twitter to create a collaborative story written by his students, as well as students from six different countries around the world.  Mike Ice, a second grade teacher from Kentucky, uses Twitter in the classroom and has students prepare brief reports about their daily activities that their parents can then see, according to an article titled “Districts Change Policies to Embrace Twitter, Facebook” in Education Week.  Although the number of schools embracing social media is relatively low right now, it is likely to expand as more and more faculty members become aware of the educational bonuses in implementing all of the educational tools they have at hand.  Our schools and students cannot help but benefit when technology is put to use as a force for good.

Fortunately, people with a strong desire to learn do not have to wait for their local schools to catch up.  There is a wealth of educational information already available online through sites like YouTube, FaceBook, and Twitter.  Although the rapid growth of technology can sometimes feel like it is going to overwhelm us, by focusing in on the ways we can use it to our benefit, we can educate ourselves as to the opportunities all around us.

How do you use social media and the internet to improve your life?  Comments welcome.

Works Cited

 “Higher Education for All “. “The Official YouTube Blog”. YouTube. March 27, 2010 <http://youtube-global.blogspot.com/2009/03/higher-education-for-all.html&gt;.

“The Facebook Classroom: 25 Facebook Apps That Are Perfect for Online Education”. “CollegeDegree.com”. Accredited Online Colleges. March 26, 2010 <http://www.collegedegree.com/library/college-life/15-facebook-apps-perfect-for-online-education&gt;.

“@LibraryCongress”. Library of Congress. March 27, 2010 <http://twitter.com/librarycongress&gt;.

“@NASA”. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. March 27, 2010 <http://twitter.com/nasa&gt;.

“@GrammarGirl”. The Grammar Girl. March 27, 2010 <http://twitter.com/grammargirl&gt;.

Young, Jeff. “A Professor’s Tips for Using Twitter in the Classroom”. Wired Campus. March 25, 2010 <http://chronicle.com/blogPost/A-Professor-s-Tips-for-Using/3643&gt;.

Parry, David. “Twitter for Academia”. academHack. March 25, 2010 <http://academhack.outsidethetext.com/home/2008/twitter-for-academia/&gt;.

Ash, Katie. “Educators Test the Limits of Twitter Microblogging Tool”. Education Week. March 25, 2010 <http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2008/06/24/01twitter_web.h02.html&gt;.

“Districts Change Policies to Embrace Twitter, Facebook “. Education Week. March 25, 2010 <http://www.edweek.org/login.html?source=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/03/17/25twitter.h29.html&destination=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/03/17/25twitter.h29.html&levelId=2100&gt;.

Book Blogs by Chicks Who Rock

Looking for some awesome book recommendations from book-loving chicks?  Look no further than these eight great book blogs run by women:

The Book Smugglers1. The Book Smugglers:  Thea and Ana are two “full-blown, unrestrained, junkie-shuffling” book addicts.  Their site is a great resource for book reviews.  My Favorite Post:  Smuggler’s Ponderings:  Hype and Prejudice where they provide 6 different lists of books for people who like the following genres:  dystopias/apocalypse, young adult science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, fairies and fairy tale retellings, and comtemporary young adult fiction.

2. Book-Blog.com:  Debra Hamel is an author herself (history), as well as a book blogger.  My Favorite Post:  Lynch, Thomas: The Undertaking which features a book by a man who is both a poet and an undertaker.

3. Lit Chick:  Melanie is a mom, scrapbooker, baker, and avid reader.  Two books from her blog that caught my eye were The Book of Tomorrow (from the post Trish Reviews Three…) about a girl who discovers a journal in her writing that details everything that happens the next day and The Tin Ticket, (from the post Short & Sweet Reviews) a non-fiction book about two women deported to Australia for petty theivery in the 1800s.

4. Anna’s Book Blog:  Anna is a small-town girl from Minnesota who likes to read Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Historical Romance, Fantasy, and Erotica.  My Favorite Post:  [Review] – Numbers: The Chaos which reviews a book about a boy who can look into a person’s eyes and see the date of their death–many of which seem to be on the same date in the year 2027.

Chick Lit Books5. Chick Lit Books:  Rian Montgomery (who has the same last name as me, so she must be cool) started this site back in 2003.  My Favorite Post:  Review: Hit Reply is about a book written entirely in emails, texts, and the like.

6. Novelicious:  This site is published by 4 book reviewers who are also writers:  Kirsty Greenwood, Debs Carr, Kira Slaughter, and Anna Bell.  While they have a bounty of detailed book reviews, I think my favorite posts here are their terrific author interviews, including ones with Bernadette Strachan, Shirley Benton, and Sarah Webb.

7. Candace's Book BlogChickLitReviews.com:  Chloe and Leah live in the U.K., and Danielle, the latest contributor to join the team, is a California girl.  My Favorite Post:  AW Editor Article: Short Stories…Yay or Nay? which discusses the recent surge in short stories being sold, especially in electronic format.

8. Candace’s Book Blog:  Candace runs one of the prettiest blogs I’ve seen.  She reviews childrens, young adult, and adult books.  My Favorite Post:  The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell which is a review of a historical fiction paranormal romance book (every genre I like rolled into one!).

More Than the Moon (Poem)

Here is an excerpt from a beautiful poem by Dawn Wilfong:

When I am settling down to bed,
you’ve slept for hours. As you
wake up I am still soundly sleeping.
If I long for you as you
dream of me are we connected?

Read the entire poem, called “More Than the Moon,” here.

Photo courtesy Bartek Ambrozik at Stock.xchnge

Book Recommendations–Heavy on the Supernatural

Photo courtesy Svilen Milev at Stock.xchngeI like Debbie because Debbie likes the kind of books I like.  If you’re looking for a good book to read and you want someone’s honest opinion, check out Debbie’s World of Books.  Debbie reads a lot, and a lot of the books she reads are supernatural or romance (or supernatural romance), which is perfect for me and perhaps for you, too.

I especially enjoyed her post titled “If You Like This Author You Might Like” where she makes other book suggestions for people who like Twilight, the Southern Vampire series (which True Blood is based on), and other specific books and genres.

Go check out her blog now.

Quirky Cool Poem (There Be Lions)

Photo courtesy Irum Shahid at Stock.xchnge

I love anything that’s written in an absurd or quirky style, and “Sunt Leones” (translated from Latin: there be lions) certainly meets that criteria.  Following is the now classic poem written by the talented Stevie Smith (1902-1971).

Sunt Leones

The lions who ate the Christians on the sands of the arena
By indulging native appetites played what has now been seen a
Not entirely negligible part
In consolidating at the very start
The position of the Early Christian Church
Initiatory rites are always bloody
And the lions, it appear
 
From contemporary art, made a study
Of dyeing Coliseum sands a ruddy
Liturgically sacrificial hue
And if the Christians felt a little blue
Well people being eaten often do
Theirs was the death, and theirs the crown undying
A state of things which must be satisfying
My point which up to this has been obscure
is that it was the lions who procure
By chewing up blood gristle flesh and bone
The martyrdoms on which the Church has grown
I only write this poem because I thought it rather looked  
As if the part the lions played was being overlooked
By lions’ jaws great benefits and blessings were begotten  
And so our debt to Lionhood must never be forgotten. 

See a list of books by Stevie Smith on amazon.com.

Poets are like Butterflies

The editor of Poesy Magazine proclaims on his News page that he’s “back again,” and, after 18 months of downtime, he’s “continuing Poesy and returning refreshed, rested and with a vengance to make an impact.”  Except that was posted 5 months ago and there doesn’t seem to be any activity since. 

Ah, well.  I know what it’s like to burn out on a project; I myself am the proud owner of a number of abandoned blogs and social networking pages strewn far and wide across the internet.  Anyway, the good news is that you can still read some cool stuff on the site, including several featured poems from the last issue.

Photo courtesy Asumann at Stock.Xchnge

Following is an excerpt from a poem called “Poem for David Church” by A.D. Winans.  It is from a memorial poem written for a poet who passed away:

poets are like butterflies
inhabiting temporary space
tasting the pollen of life
spreading their wings
reshaping the stars the universe
cosmic matter waiting to be reborn

Temptation Drive-Thru (Flash Fiction)

Courtesy of C. Glass at stock.xchnge

For those of you unfamiliar with flash fiction, it is the short version of the short story.  It is also the specialty of Every Day Fiction, a site that delivers daily short fiction to your mailbox (you can also read stories online).  Here is an excerpt from a fantastic story recently published by EDF called Temptation Drive-Thru by Greg Likins:

I pulled up to the window. The girl leaned out, twisting her necklace around a fingernail studded with stick-on gems. I paid, and when she returned my change, that fingernail lingered in my palm. It felt like a condiment packet scratching my skin, and instinctively I squeezed it. She didn’t seem to mind.

Read the entire short story here or visit the author’s website.

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