Social Media Classroom

The
 Social 
Media 
Classroom
 (SMC) began 
as 
an 
application 
submitted 
by 
virtual 
community pioneer
 Howard
 Rheingold 
to 
the 
2007 
HASTAC 
Digital 
Media 
Learning 
Competition
, co-sponsored 
by 
the 
MacArthur 
Foundation
. 
It
 was 
released
 on 
October 
6,
 2008
 and
 made 
something 
of 
a 
splash 
in 
the 
social 
media 
learning blogosphere. 
The 
Social
 Media
 Classroom 
is 
considered 
a learning 
management 
system
 (LMS) like 
Moodle, 
Joomla, 
Blackboard, 
and 
Sakai, 
but
 the 
experience 
of 
the 
user 
inside 
the 
Social 
Media 
Classroom
 is 
a 
much 
different
 one. The 
learning 
environment 
is 
shaped
 by 
an 
integrated 
suite
 of
 social
 media
 tools 
including 
forums, 
blogs,
 a
 wiki,
 chat
rooms,
 social bookmarking, 
and
 video-commenting.

Untitled.tiff

Historically, LMS have been conceptualized as efficient information delivery systems. The architecture and syntax of traditional LMS like Blackboard and the open source alternative Moodle are shaped by the positivist orientations and scientific management proclivities of their designer-architects, the behavioral psychologists and cognitive scientists — and somewhat later, the instructional technologists. Envisioning education as simply transmission of knowledge, early LMS developers sought to build an ideal structure for transferring perfectly formed expert knowledge to the learner/consumer. Content, in this control paradigm, is an object to be managed by putting it in its proper place. This approach to content and structure effectively limits what sorts of activities are possible inside traditional LMS, because the only possible ways of engaging with the content are those that were imagined at the outset, and for which structural provisions were made.

But the Social Media Classroom is different. Developer Sam Rose used the open-source content management framework Drupal to build the Classroom, which is freely available for download and adaptation. Software built on the Drupal framework is capable of accommodating the distributed, collaborative and contingent information production practices of social media because of the flexibility intrinsic to the structure. “Drupal,” writes founder Dries Buytaert, “[has] the idea of abstraction embedded in its DNA, [and] is intentionally generalized in its approach.” A core assumption of the Drupal project is that content should move freely through a site, governed by rules that the webmaster or site developer puts into place; the Social Media Classroom is a fluid space that evolves as students develop content in their exploration of the rhetoric and practices of each tool, or genre of social media.

I currently am employed by the CUNY Research Foundation and Project Stretch at the Graduate Center as a staff developer/technology consultant. Basically, I am responsible for helping educators supplement their classroom practice with online activities grounded in a social constructivist pedagogy. I meet with teachers weekly to work on their Moodle, and I also help them implement the activity we have created with their students. The Moodle offers a familiar structure and a useful framework to teachers who would otherwise never consider online instruction. But I often wish it was flatter, that it afforded students some kind of chance to exercise agency and develop public voice. I wish it was less of a "walled garden" - cut off from the rest of the internet. Constructivism only speaks to part of the learning equation - Connectivism is the social constructivist learning epistemology for the networked age.

I am hoping to integrate the Social Media Classroom into the Moodle, and I am focused on one school in particular - Bedford Academy High School - where I have a close working relationship with the principal - Adofo Muhammad, with whom I co-teach an Introduction to Sociology course. I will demonstrate how the flexibility offered by the SMC architecture can enhance student collaboration and teacher learning objectives in ways not possible in the currently restrictive Moodle frameworks. It is highly likely that our collaboration will continue into the next academic year, although the students are likely to be twelfth graders rather than ninth graders. It is also possible that I will work with Muhammad in some capacity over the summer. I am continuing, however, to cultivate my relationship with the other teachers with whom I work, because I don't know yet what environment will be best for the this project.

Claire's Project Abstract Page: ITP Wiki

YouTube Video: Add screenshot to SMC

local PDF

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