This morning I read an eCampus News (Can Twitter use help improve grades? Some researchers think so) overview of a recent article from the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning reporting a positive effect on grades when students use social media (The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades, R. Junco, G. Heiberger, E. Loken).
I love that studies are coming out about the value of social media as a tool for learner engagement. I think science could be better if other forms of engagement were also used in the comparison. How does social media engagement compare to taking notes, to regularly attending group study sessions? I know that students who take notes in class do better. The key is engagement, not just the medium of engagement.
If social media helps students engage, I think that is wonderful. We shouldn’t, however, substitute the medium for the effect. The factor that most drives success is engagement, and whatever helps the students engage should be encouraged. Let’s see how professorial jokes, role-playing and other forms of engagement do before we trumpet the value of technology alone. It is put one tool in an educator’s arsenal.
Educators need a broad arsenal of engagement tools, and they need to use them and find what fits for a particular class, experimenting and switching up every time they receive a new set of learners. Our goals should be to engage them using whatever tools are effective for a given student or group of students. Let’s use all of the science, not just the science we like or the science du jour.