SOCIALLY LEARNING: BUILDING CAMPUS-COMMUNITY BRIDGES WITH SOCIAL MEDIA AND SERVICE LEARNING
Misperceptions sometimes exist in higher education about the use of the versatile tools of social media technology. In a networked world, social media use is debated in educational circles along a spectrum as being either superficial or enabling. Regarded as tools of communication, social media has vast teaching and learning capabilities, but is admittedly a double-edged sword. The personification of social media (for example, "Facebook made me do it") is a commonly heard phrase, but quite a generalized and maligned misperception. Social media is technology driven by the human hand, and is yet another format used to communicate, similar to pen and paper or text workbooks.
In a service-learning project at Black Hills State University, student leaders, faculty, and community members experimented for the past two years with building an online community of “doers” using the social medium of ning.com. The project introduced the proactive, positive community-building project to prospective participants as an adventure of discussion, social learning, and subsequent activism using a new communication frontier guided by a mission statement and netiquette rules. Substantial outcomes resulted from online interaction, problem-solving, and planning. Approximately 150 participants currently "populate" the community. Many projects displayed social learning in this qualitative study, adding credence to the positive potential of social media tools.