Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flipping the Classroom with Social Media

Educators continue to look for ways to "flip the classroom" through effective learning space design and adhering to the principles of Universal Design. The concept of Universal Design focuses on seven principles in designing spaces: Equitable Use, Flexibility in Use, Simple and Intuitive Use, Perceptible Information, Tolerance for Error, Low Physical Effort, Size and Space for Approach and Use. While each of these elements are closely related to learning space creation, they also have a relationship with the curriculum and how it's taught.

The key for higher education, is to research how new technology tools, and strategies can be incorporated into the learning space to make teaching and learning more authentic and relevant to the student.  One of these tools for educators is the academic use of social media by students. This can open dynamic "windows of opportunity" by flipping the classroom through effective use of social media- in this case, through citizen journalism.

Through a series of class lectures in political science, English, and Communication Studies  at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, students are exposed to the concept of creating digital stories through citizen journalism with CNN iReporting. The class quickly learns about the potential of a wider audience to view their work.

In a variety of classes, a diverse array of human interest and relevant political events are shared with the students.  These "digital stories" are used  to illustrate how authentic and relevant events and personal stories can connect emotionally with the audience.  In addition, social media tools such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Skype are discussed, and examples are used to show how they can quickly disseminate content and stories worldwide, almost instantaneously.  As it was pointed out in the lecture, "social media is history in real time."

During the class lecture, a series of CNN iReport stories are highlighted to explain how the story concept was initially developed, written, and disseminated with the help of social media tools. The key to understanding social media is to realize how it can: motivate and engage; accelerate dissemination; distribute fact or fiction; affect attribution of the author; reinforce, influence, or change opinion; and make learning more authentic.

Students are encouraged to consider becoming iReporters to further enhance their writing and photojournalistic skills. Even faculty members can participate in this process.  Currently there are over 1 million iReporters worldwide.  As an iReporter, you become part of the iReport community, learning techniques and strategies from a worldwide cohort. The experience of being a citizen journalist can extend to almost any discipline.  Once an article on CNN iReports is verified for its accuracy with appropriate clearances, it is becomes officially "vetted."
Once this occurs, other news aggregators may take the story and disseminate it to even larger audiences.  Originally my goal was to reach 10,000 views by the on-line audience.  Today, that total is approaching nearly 1 million views, and that total continues to grow every day. By providing students the opportunity to document original personal stories or a relevant news event, it helps create a diverse portfolio of the author's work, and offers opens the opportunity for worldwide commenting and discussion. Providing these opportunities to students helps to empower them to become more engaged in the learning process.  By encouraging students to immersed themselves in relevant topics helps to "flip the classroom" into a much more dynamic and engaging environment environment. [in class photos taken by Nicole Noe and Rileigh Van Driessche]

Jim Jorstad- CNN 2013 iReport Spirit Award Winner