Almost exactly two-months ago I gave this talk at the TEDxUTampa event hosted and organized by undergraduate University of Tampa students. The video is now uploaded to the TEDx Talks YouTube channel. I am excited to share this in my blog and I welcome constructive feedback (keyword: “constructive”). Also, please feel free to share it with others if you believe in my message:
“Instead of solely focusing on the ‘bad’ or ‘thinking of social media as a waste of time’ it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”
If you have 13 minutes to spare, here is the video:
Last week we all learned about Facebook breach of data. It sucked. But to be honest, it was not surprising to me at all as a user. I never really had expectations that Facebook would keep our data safe, protected, that they would use it ethically, or that they were really thinking about providing us healthy ways to use the platform. I wish they did. But they are greedy.
Many friends, family, and colleagues have discussed their discontent and are considering doing without a Facebook account. I am not here to encourage you to continue using Facebook. I think it is a personal decision. I have quit Facebook in the past (I do not mean deactivated my account. I mean, that I took the time to delete every single post and photo, unfriend every single person, wipe my account clean, and made the request to Facebook to completely delete my account) and it was hard. Three years of “social connections from my undergraduate years” gone! However, at the same time it was exactly what I needed to do then.
I returned to Facebook two and half years after my hiatus with a completely different mindset. That time apart (from Facebook) really made me realize the benefits and disadvantages it has. I should also say that the context of my situation made it very unique: during the time I quit Facebook I ended a five year romantic relationship, moved from my little college town in Kansas to a city where I knew no one, and started a doctoral program (I talk a bit about this in my TEDxUTampa talk). Last, I should add, this all happened before “smartphones” and apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, and others where a thing.
Again, I am really not here to convince anyone to keep their Facebook account or to delete it. I am here to say that for me it would be difficult to quit again. I was born and raised in Panama. I did all of my elementary, middle, and secondary school there. Unlike most people who attend different school during the K-12 years, I spend most of my years (since grade 4th) in the same institution with the same classmates (yes, there are people that I know since I was in 4th grade). I am connected with most of them through Facebook, which in Panama is almost the equivalent of text messaging (the only App that is more popular in Panama is probably WhatsApp). No one really writes emails there anymore. Seriously, I cannot even remember the last time anyone from Panama wrote me an email (now that I think about it).
I have lived in three different countries: Panama, Canada, and the United States (six different cities total). Ain’t nobody got time to be emailing to keep up with people (I already have enough with all the emails I get and have to send for work).
Another reason it would be difficult to quit, is my constant connection to professional organizations and support groups. Connections to the groups that are created as part of my professional organizations, truly helps me stay connect to colleagues throughout the year. It helps me know what they are up to professionally. Also, sometimes there are beneficial conversations that occur (in professional circles and support groups). I may not be a participant in the conversation (just a lurker) but the resources that are shared help me in one way or another. Sometimes I participate, if I know something about a topic or have resources to share. This is something I learned during my time away from Facebook: use the platform to your advantage.
I know some people are thinking: it is an echo chamber, people just use it to post their perfect pictures, others are just nosy about your business, all those political post are annoying, etc. Maybe it is because I am at different point in my life, but I enjoy seeing updates from my FB friends (no I do not get offended because I did not get a personalized text message from them letting me know about something special that happened to them). Also, I am very intentional about who I connect with. If I cannot be “me” with you, then I will not accept your request OR I will simply delete you as a friend. If I feel that what you post is toxic, then “delete.” BTW, I am also like this offline. This is who I am, you can take it or leave.
During my time away from Facebook, I learned that it is really hard to keep up with people. Relationships require time and it is easy to neglect them. Again, this was all before smartphones and the development of all those other social platforms. I know what you are thinking: a centralized friendship “hub” is evil. Yes, it sucks that in order to keep up we have use this evil thing call Facebook but I personally do not have time to do it differently.
That is all I have for now. BTW, I am human. I may have a different opinion tomorrow. I also want to leave you with three personal quotes:
“So to some extend it is true. Social media can be harmful (and affect our mental well being), difficult to manage and overwhelming, too public, distracting, and influence and miss inform us.”
“Instead of solely focusing on the “bad” or “thinking of social media as a waste of time” it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.”
“I am also not saying that we need to overlook the challenges that social media present for our social, mental, and physical well-being. We absolutely need to find ways to deal with this challenges.”
I am sharing the full-text of my recent talk at the #TEDxUTampa event on February 3rd, 2018 at The University of Tampa campus:
Making Social Media Work for your Educational Advantage
Enilda Romero-Hall, Ph.D.
In the year 2005, I was an undergraduate student living in a small college town in Kansas. My classmates and friends had recently started using this website called Facebook. It was: “ a better version of MySpace,” which I had never used. Of course I started using Facebook, friending others, and posting picture of my social life. It took three years but eventually, I became overwhelmed with Facebook. So, I proceeded to delete my Facebook account.
A year later, I had moved to a different state and city, started a doctoral degree, and was volunteering as a graduate student at an international conference. I noticed in my interactions with other graduate students that I felt out of the loop. For example: many of my colleagues had participated in a MOOC (massive open online course) about statistical analysis taught by a well known scholar in our field that they found out about through a Facebook group posting. I had never heard of it. At the end of that conference, I really started to wonder if I needed to reconsider my decision and re-join facebook.
It took me about six more months but eventually, I started to use social media AGAIN and made a conscious decision to use it for both personal and professional reasons. Not only did I join Facebook, I also joined other social media platforms with online communities that allow me to exchange information with others, connect with people who have similar interest, and informally learn about the topics that interest me.
Now, let’s fastword to 2018:
Today social media is ingrained in the way our society communicates, for good or bad. There is evidence that the use of social media will continue to grow as applications expand and new ones enter the market in the near future. Users are eager to try applications that offer engaging and unique ways to communicate with others.
I bet many of you are Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook users?
Well, if you are a Snapchat user, you are one of 166 million daily active users. According to the Pew Research Center, social media adoption in the United States has grown from 5% in 2005 to 69% percent in 2016. This adoption rates are a global trend.
The great majority of social media users access this platforms for informal, social interactions with friends, family, and acquaintances.
However, is not uncommon to see “concerning” headlines and research about social media in the news. For example:
Meghan Markle just quit social media. Here’s why you might want to as well!
Facebook admits that social media can be bad for you!
Social media is changing how we think, and not necessarily for better
Stop over-posting your vacation photos
Because we have all seen pictures of our friends and family in their amazing vacations! Everything just looks so picture perfect. The kind of vacation that you dream of. Just recently I also had a picture perfect vacation. My husband, my two-year old, and I embarked on an adventure to our sunny destination: Cartagena, Colombia. The pictures did not disappoint. But let’s be honest my husband and I were traveling with a two-year old. His behavior was not always picture perfect.
Yes, he had temper tantrums. Yes, he cried. Yes, he was loud when asked to be quiet. He is a two-year old after all!
So to some extend it is true. Social media can be harmful (and affect our mental well being), difficult to manage and overwhelming, too public, distracting, and influence and miss inform us. So I am not here to tell you that it is all rainbows and unicorns, Nor it is doom and gloom. But what I want to share with you is that we have to find ways to positively use this mediums that are not going anywhere, anytime soon. There are a large number of research efforts that hope to better understand and analyze the use of social media for teaching and learning purposes. As an educator and researcher myself, I have experienced and investigated how social media can be used for informal learning purposes.
Since 2013 the graduate students in the program in which I teach have been actively using social media online communities to informally learn more about our field, instructional design. We have both public and private online social communities. In this social media communities students exchange articles, post jobs and internship opportunities, ask questions and seek recommendations, and simply stay connected. Through my research, I found out that this online social media communities have helped keep the conversation going outside of the classroom and as one graduate students mentioned: “Some posts have triggered the students curiosity and in turn has led to exploring different topics and developing skills.”
But this informal learning experiences are not unique to the graduates students in the instructional design and technology program at the University of Tampa. As a knowledge seeker, I wanted to know if graduate students in other institutions of higher education are also using social media online communities to post, share, network, and connect. Here is what I found:
Students in other institutions perceive social media online communities as a quick method to help support social and knowledge communication
This communities help “break the ice” because it provides a relax way to communicate with others since conversations happen in a far more spontaneous and candid way
For students in fully online programs social media groups provided a sense of community… a sense of belonging…
To me what was really striking was that not only did students in this social media online communities appreciate sharing with others who have similar interest but most importantly they participated and valued the interactions with others who shared a different perspective because it challenged their views and allowed them to reflect, rethink, and in some instances re-shape their of own knowledge.
Of course, not all students are quick to post and share their thoughts with the world or their online communities. What I found is that some students enjoy lurking around and quietly participating while reading and consuming information provided by others.
So you may be wondering, why is this important? Why is it important for me to invest my time to listen to this lady talk about informal learning in social media communities?
Because, instead of solely focusing on the “bad” or “thinking of social media as a waste of time” it is imperative that we find innovative ways to use and repurpose this online social environments in a manner that is safe, ethical, and beneficial to us.
And how can you do that?
Become a self-directed learner. Use social media to gather information about trends related to your field or area of interest:
What are new and emergent topics in your field?
Who are leaders in your field that you should follow?
Where can you find rigours research related to your field of study?
Use social media to connect with individuals outside your network
It is good to connect with others who have the same ideas as you
But it is also good to breakout of your network because this interaction can lead to innovation
What it boils down to: using social media to engage in transformational learning opportunities in which you:
Engage in critical reflection
Engage in discourse
Take action to transform your frame of reference
Don’t get me wrong! I am not saying “stop posting your favorite funny cat videos and memes” or “stop sharing selfies of yourself.” I am also not saying that we need to overlook the challenges that social media present for our social, mental, and physical well-being. We absolutely need to find ways to deal with this challenges.
What I am saying is that there are other ways in which we can enrich social media environments. There are educational aspects that we should consider. We, as users, have the power to control: what we post, when we post, who we interact with, and how we interact with others. You cannot rely on social media developers to provide healthy ways to use this platforms. It is our responsibility to make it work for us!
There is no doubt that social media is ingrained in the way society communicates today, for good or bad. There is evidence that the use of social media will continue to grow as applications expand and new ones enter the market in the near future. Users are eager to try applications that offer engaging and unique ways to communicate with others. For example, today thirty percent of teens rank Snapchat as their most important social network (Oremus, 2015). This platform which was first released in 2011, today has a market of 166 million daily active users (Oremus, 2015).
The great majority of social media users access this platforms for informal, social interactions with friends, family, and acquaintances. Yet, we have also seen an increase in the use of social media for teaching and learning purposes across many different fields (Rodríguez-Hoyos, Salmón, & Fernández-Díaz, 2015). There is also a large number of social media research efforts that hope to better understand and analyze:
The way people communicate and connect
What is communicated in these channels
Forms of activism and protest
Specific groups and their online interactions
Equality, diversity, and social issues discussions
The affordances of the different platforms
Cultural and country-specific forms of engagement
Privacy and security issues
Again, it is safe to say that researchers want to learn more about the platforms, the users, and different matters associated with social media use.
A few months ago, I engaged in a research project collaboration with Dr. Royce Kimmons and Dr. George Veletsianos who are Directors of the Digital Learning and Social Media Group. The aim of the project was to understand how Instructional Design (ID) graduate programs use social media accounts. We wanted to know what type of content was posted in these accounts, how many users liked/followed these accounts, how engaged were these accounts in the content sharing process, and what kind of interactions others had with these social media accounts.
To gather the social media accounts of ID graduate programs, we took a different approach. Instead of combing the Internet and social media platforms in search of accounts associated with ID graduate programs, we created an editable Google Spreadsheet and posted it in different outlets to allow our colleagues and graduate students to share their accounts with us. We asked ID faculty members and graduate students to share the public social media sites of their ID program. This focus on public social media accounts was due to the fact that we were primarily interested on Twitter accounts for our research project. However, faculty members and graduate students gladly shared both public and private social media accounts. Here is a link to the public Google Spreadsheet: http://tiny.cc/IDTSocialMediaAccounts.
Today, there are total of forty-six different higher education institutions listed in the spreadsheet, including public and private institutions within the United States and Canada. Based on the content shared in the spreadsheet, we saw that some ID programs/departments have predominantly public social media accounts to communicate with graduate students, faculty, and other stakeholders. In a few instances, ID programs/department have both public and private social media communities. For some ID programs/departments a “hashtag” was the main form of digital togetherness (see Table 1). However, the most common type of social media account by ID graduate programs, based on the data collected via the spreadsheet, are Facebook Pages (see Table 2).
Table 1. Hashtags of Instructional Design Graduate Programs
Program or Department
Brigham Young University
Instructional Psychology & Technology
California State University Fullerton
Master of Science Instructional Design and Technology (MSIDT)
Indian River State College
School of Education
Loyola University Maryland
Master of Education in Educational Technology
Royal Roads University
School of Education & Technology
The University of Texas at Austin
Leaning Technologies Program
University of North Texas
Learning Technologies Program
University of Wyoming
Instructional Technology Program
Wichita State University
Learning and Instructional Design
We have maintained the editable spreadsheet available for others to access and edit (add other social media accounts). Although we used this editable spreadsheet as a way to crowdsource IDT program/departments social media accounts, I would hope that the spreadsheet serves as a resource for graduate students and faculty across ID programs. If you know other ID program/department which have a social media account and is not listed in the spreadsheet, please add them. This spreadsheet is opened to IDT programs across the globe.
Table 2. Facebook Page of ID Graduate Departments and Programs
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of presenting to the UT Honors Programs students and faculty as well other UTampa colleagues and staff members. I presented on the topic: “Use of Social Media by Graduate Students and Programs.” This is a research area that I am currently exploring and I was able to share some preliminary results. Click on the image below to access the link to the complete Prezi presentation:
Thrilled to be in Seville, Spain for another CIEE International Faculty Professional Development Seminar. Thankful for the CIEE Alumni Scholarship which helped sponsor my participation in this seminar. The title of the seminar is “Communication Strategies in Context: Culture Learning and Community Engagement through Digital Tools.” I hope to provide regular updates throughout the week related to the seminar.
Also, as part of the seminar I have a bit of homework and will be sharing (or at least try) to share it every day. The homework consist of audio recordings of sounds, conversations, audio reflections, interviews, and other audio recorded during the next few days in Seville. Each audio recording should be no more than two minutes long.