David McGillivray

Professor, interested in events, culture, digital participation & sport.


Social media for learning and teaching

I started working at the University of the West of Scotland three weeks ago with a remit to pursue research towards the UK research excellence framework and to promote innovation in Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Business and Creative Industries. No easy task you might think given that both Schools within the Faculty already practice innovative practice across their cognate areas of activity. However, the use of the burgeoning set of social media tools is patchy, at best, across the Faculty. Yet we know that the end user – students – are prolific consumers of the social media environment. So we in HE should surely at least be thinking about how we can engage our students through the utilisation of tools they already use as a matter of habit? Of course, the cynics cite the following problems with the use of FB, Twitter, Flickr etc in the educational setting:

– lack of control over content and, more importantly, student responses (and therefore institutional reputation)
– the difficulty in securing basic standards/level of provision in the utilisation of social media to secure equality of access for students
– resistance from the infrastructural gatekeepers of institutions
– the sheer velocity of new developments within the social media and the information overload that this produces

These fears and doubts are valid and they certainly present educationalists with real dilemmas. However, my view is that we risk more by shunning social media tools than we do by playing with them. And playing is what we need to encourage HE staff to do – creating teams and proselytisers for social media and support structures that emphasise the ease with which these tools can be used and the effectiveness of their presence in learning and teaching practice. I’m off to hear the pioneer of social networks in academic discourse, Howard Rheingold, in January to hear more – why not sign up and join me?


David McGillivray • December 20, 2010

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