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Monday, April 30, 2012

Reforming Education - Designing a Classroom aligned with Social Media Technologies and Social Groups to Change the Learning Paradigm

While Colleges and Universities have a key role in promoting high quality and reliable education and the development of knowledge, with the fast growing technology, media and information systems, it is obviously becoming very difficult to cope with the needs of today’s students by confining education only in educational institutions. Being overwhelmed by the information created by virtual communities, a number of students are losing interest to learn in colleges. This is a good signal to educators for the need to extend their classrooms not only beyond the four walls but also beyond the campus compound.
 The loss of students’ interest in colleges is becoming a global issue. For instance it’s been widely reported that America is facing an education crisis. Funding cuts, overcrowded classrooms and a shortage of teachers impact this even further. But the main issue is that classrooms are not social in nature.
To positively affect education and learning, educators and administrators are using social in many forms. Lesson plans and projects that worked 30 years ago are being rethought, taking into account a different and more connected audience of students today. Understanding the way digital content can help students in the classroom, and how students are using it to learn, is at the heart of fostering a new style of education.
Eritrea Institute of Technology is extensively working to develop forward-thinking educators by integrating social Media Technologies and Social Groups. Here are few innovative ways our educators need to adopt the power of social to empower students to succeed:

1.   Transform Passive One-Way Teaching to Two-Way Collaboration

Education is more than simply absorbing information. It’s about asking questions, challenging the status quo, and empowering students to make informed decisions and draw conclusions. Social platforms are tools to support the learning ecosystem; it’s a technology that turns a one-way dialogue into multi-point conversations, facilitating actionable collaboration.
As computers and technology have become more and more prevalent, Instructors, has to seek ways to use Social technology to engage and excite their students. Taking the concept of social networking and applying it to an online community for students is one way of creating an academic repository of their online work. Not only is it a place for the teacher to post homework assignments and syllabi, the community becomes a destination for students to share their viewpoints and grow with one another.
MyCampus, a collaborative learning management system in the EIT network is deployed with this in mind. With students knowing how to communicate well and having blogging and writing skills, the teaching-learning process no longer ends at 6 pm; there will be a constant flow of educational communication inside and out of the classroom. The availability of social network technologies and social groups being integrated with the learning platform enable students to stay connected and collaboratively learn from each other. This transforms the one-way teaching to network of collaboration.

2.   Empowering Teachers to Make Curriculum Relevant for Tomorrow

To help students succeed, our curriculum must be relevant for tomorrow. Students need to be prepared for life beyond the academic setting and ready to embrace post-graduate and working lives. To create a curriculum that’s truly forward-looking, teachers need to have the time and space to do research, get inspirations, and share best practices.
One of the biggest benefits of a custom social community is that teachers who share the same passion can easily connect in an open and supportive environment. Conversations and idea sharing extend beyond the boundaries of classroom four walls. At MyCampus we are seeing educators connecting with each other, in turn finding the right recipe for integrating new technologies in classroom teaching. A great example is the use of Forums (discussion topics) with in a particular course and the ability to create social groups that foster institute wide collaboration. Teachers are obliged to work on how this technology can best be used to enrich the lives of students, while preparing them for tomorrow. Teachers do this through the use of Institute wide discussion forums at EitCloud, offering and getting tips and best practices, and detailing implementation plans to centerpiece social classrooms to ready students for success today and in the future.
Education is no longer passive, and that students and teachers alike need to be flexible to relearn, at any time. His community is taking advantage of the opportunity for educators to help out each other by sharing ways to use mobile technology in the classroom to drive student success.

3.   Build a Support and Professional Development System for Teachers

As education reform develops into a twenty-first century curriculum, teachers and school administrators are coming together as members of online communities to nurture a professional support system. By joining the conversation through education-focused EIT communities, teachers are no longer making the education journey solo in other words no learner is an island.
EitCloud-Collaborative Educational Community is one such community, attracting an institute wide teaching-learning audience with global education reform vision. There, educators become part of the digital dialog, enabling them to share and learn in their teaching success with educators from the institute and around the world. Limitless topics can be discussed here, without restrictive control of academic institutions, governing bodies or bureaucracy.
Members of such global communities act as valuable resources to help guide other educators along pathways of successful teaching-learning methodologies. It is all about how cloud is formed in the sky. EitCloud enables teachers, students and other members of the institute the opportunity to be part of the conversation in the virtual classroom.
The Cloud is open. The initiation is passion or we can say interest, interest to share knowledge and collaborate in reforming education. EitCloud socially connect educators, where the bigger is the guider and the small ones are learners and contributors. Educators are people who care about others, getting into education largely because they wanted to make a difference. And for many of them, they had to abandon those passions. They were bound by so many constraints in their lives, that they couldn’t bring themselves to their imagination. So all of a sudden, social media tools provided educators with an outlet for this passion. You contribute to cloud because only you are caring. Social Media and Social group tools help educators to be global publishers and give them a global voice, while supporting to each other.

4.   Give Guidance to Underprivileged Students to Succeed

One purpose of education is to level the playing field, giving all students equal access to learning and content, no matter a student’s background—be it racial, socioeconomic, disability or upbringing. The key is finding a platform that enables educators to help students learn in a dynamic and open environment, and creates opportunities for students to help their peers.
It really needs passion and personal initiative to give students an avenue to find the academic support they need and encourage students to become the first generation in their family to attend college and higher educations. Such individuals or organization uses Social Media technologies to reach wider audiences and connect them in the education perspective. This promotes a college-bound culture and a community lending itself to students seeking higher education opportunities after high school. Role model-college students can spread positive exemplary information along with inspirational activities for underprivileged youths to follow, counterbalancing the many negative influencers they may encounter as they grow up. Through this trusting and well organized social community, children learn how to deal with stress, raise expectations, succeed academically and take control of their destiny.
We can’t deny that there are a number of irrelevant programs which makes use of the power of social media technologies to expand their influences and divert young learners in to undesirable directions. However, educators should not see their hands crossed; instead they need to be creative in designing their classrooms in new and attractive ways by aligning it with social media technologies and empowering it with social groups. This enables them to share their successes with one another and help techno-socio-overwhelmed students return back to academic success opportunities.

To illustrate this with an example: Facebook and Google plus have now become globally recognized social network platforms, as a result millions of students are registered to the systems (especially facebook) and use them in their daily life socio-interaction. Educational institutions cannot deny this; instead they should plan on how to make use of these powerful social platforms to achieve their goals. Of course the goal of educational centers is to build confident and globally competitive graduates who make a difference in their prospective working areas in the long run.
Working in community practices powered by social media tools for a common purpose (in our case Education) is more than just publishing educational content or best practices – it forges relationships and opens the door to worldwide education success.
To sum up, in the classroom surrounded by social media technologies and empowered by social groups, education is being reinvented to take advantage of new technologies, online mediums and web applications. For many educators, it takes their own initiative to get the ball rolling – and at EitCloud, we give full support and follow up to the educators who have already begun redefining the ways students learn and succeed. We also look forward to supporting many more teachers, students and social media enriched classrooms as these practices are practices which reflect the 21st century skills and real world environment for now and the future. Design your own classroom that changes the learning paradigm to meet the needs of our digital natives.

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