Most of us use social media to connect with other people. Facebook is reserved for a more personal circle of friends, while Twitter is to endorse/follow celebrities or to stay-in-the-know.
But did you know that you can turn social media into your own global classroom?
According to a 2014 research study by Ofcom, 66% of all adults aged 16+, have at least 1 social networking profile. That is a staggering number. Also, each person on average spends 31 hours on the Internet every month.
Considering this wouldn’t it be useful to devote some of this time to learning something new? What if you could increase your knowledge without having to change any of your online behavior too much?
In this article, I will show you how to extract knowledge from the same online communities that we spend the majority of our online time on.
The argument that social media is a huge time-waster, drives restricted access to social networking sites across workplaces globally. MOOCs or open universities are the default choices. While MOOCs are great, there is something to be said for the effort to enroll in a course and follow-through an entire academic program of study without losing motivation. Sometimes, it makes sense to create your own self-paced and non-structured learning experience. Social media is just right for it.
Find Learning Groups on Facebook
We have seen how to how to set up YouTube for better learning. But have you tried joining one of Facebook’s many free and educational groups?
Here are some of my favorites:
- Phys.org – For some amazing Physics related content.
- NIH – For the latest news and research on Public Health and Wellness.
- Seed Magazine – For science and how it affects culture.
- BBC English – To learn or just better your English.
- The Next Web – On technology and related news.
- Connect A Million Minds – Experiments, tech, problem-solving, and wonderful people.
- Magnum – A brilliant community of photographers.
As you can see below, start with the search bar and then use these smarts tips to find the perfect Facebook Group.
These free groups on Facebook are not only a source of trending information on your timeline, but also an introduction to the wider community.
Tip: You can create your own closed group on Facebook and use it as a platform to connect, collaborate, and learn with your friends.
Curate Your Twitter Experience
Start following more than just your friends and random celebrities on Twitter. If you haven’t heard of Twitter lists yet, check out MakeUseOf’s own guide to how to create, discover and follow Twitter lists.
Below are some recommendations on accounts and lists to follow, which are doubtless insightful, but you could choose to follow any subject you find interesting.
- The Joan Ganz Cooney Center — JGCC has been creating engaging content for young children for more than 40 years and is the creator of Sesame Street. Their Twitter account shares information on the impact that digital technology has on learning and early literacy in young children.
- Gates Foundation — Created by Bill and Melinda Gates of Microsoft fame, the foundation works to better education by building and giving supplies to schools around the world. They tweet interesting and insightful data on education and achievement globally.
- MSD Foundation — The non-profit arm of DELL, the MSDF Twitter account tweets about innovation in public health, education, technology and insights on better lives.
- Sir Ken Robinson — Globetrotting education advisor Sir Ken Robinson is a tireless advocate for reform, particularly when it involves encouraging creativity and innovation.
- Thought Leaders List — A popular and massive Twitter list with every heavyweight in thought-leadership you can think of. You’ll learn things at the speed of light.
- Journalism List — Great list for anyone interested in journalists and journalism – not just news.
- Most Innovative Companies List — Put together by Fast Company, this list features some of the most innovative companies all over the world. Learn something new about business, success, and impact.
- BrainFood — Interesting food based list that also talks about the science behind the food.
- Verified Accounts — A public list of all Twitter verified accounts.
- Political Leaders – Anyone who occupies a public office is here. This list is a great way to track the political scene.
Tip: You can use tools like IFTTT to automate the process of creating your own Twitter list with the right hashtags.
Take Longform Seriously
Learning online via social media doesn’t have to mean only short and newsy content. Indeed, longform has an important place in what we read and assimilate online. One of my favorite social networks for longform content is Medium and here is a starting selection of insightful authors and publications;
- Jason Fried — Founder & CEO at Basecamp.com. Co-author of Getting Real, Remote, and NYT Bestseller REWORK.
- Loic Le Meur — LeWeb co-founder, an investor in LinkedIn, Lending Club, and Evernote.
- Kevin Rose — Iconic tech investor.
- Anil Dash — Tech super-enthusiast and advisor to Medium.
- Robert Scoble — Works at UploadVR, building for augmented and virtual reality.
- Ryan Hoover — Creator of Product Hunt.
- Sarah Hendriks — Director of Gender Equality at the Gates Foundation.
- Endless — Science Fiction Magazine with amazingly futuristic narratives.
- Coffeelicious — Odd and delicious. Stories about life and all things in it.
- Serious Eats — All about food, of course.
- Thoughts on Media — About journalism and the lack of it.
- How We Get To Next — Thoughts from people building the future and not just tech.
- Bright — On innovation in education.
- Workplace Happiness – Reflections on bringing happiness to the workplace.
- The Development Set — Fascinating stories about development and social impact.
Once you’ve subscribed to a few, Medium does a stellar job of recommending authors and publications you are likely to enjoy, going forward.
Putting It All Together
The point of using social media to learning online hinges on being a part of learning communities. Communities are ‘communities’ because people contribute and share. And the best part of learning with social media is that you can give back to communities. In fact, one of the most talked about success stories of the Internet, UpWorthy, used this approach of content-finding, popularly called content curation to drive its own revenue’s through the roof and later revised its success on “doing good”.
You too can give back to the wider community using the educational content you create for yourself. For example, make your Twitter lists public and invite others to contribute.
Start content curation and sharing with the right tools available online. Here’s how you can get it all together and then share:
1. Organize everything into a reading list. Once you’ve crafted your social networks into streams of learnable content, go ahead and create a reading list. MakeUseOf has tips on Instapaper and ways to get more out of Pocket, both of which are wonderful services to annotate, tag, and store material. If you are looking for a no-nonsense service, try Pinboard. Or for a more project-driven approach try the visual Mammoth.
2. Set up a sharing schedule. Think of how you’d like to share the knowledge to your social networks. Would you like to tweet a couple of links a day?
You could consider using Buffer to schedule topical tweets. If you are using Facebook, use its own scheduler to publish your update. You could also create a social-media driven e-newspaper using a service like Paper.li.
3. Use a powerful curation tool. You could use your knowledge to blog or to start your own curated content magazine, using a service like Scoop.it.
My favorite web service is Nuzzel which is driven mostly by Twitter and Facebook. Nuzzel allows the curation of links and content from your social circle and helps you publish your own newsletter. It is also free.
Nuzzel is responsive and works just as well on the iPhone and Android. Here’s what the web app looks like:
Nuzzel gives you the ability to generate your own newsletter. Newsletters are a great way to maintain a low-frequency and a supply of curated content for a select audience. There are a huge number of wonderful newsletters available on the web, which convince us that mailing lists are still a popular way to reach people.
Here is what a published newsletter looks like:
Creating a Nuzzel newsletter is free. Nuzzel newsletters are automatically generated social newsletters based on your Nuzzel feed. Everyone who subscribes to your newsletter receives a daily e-mail with the top 5 Nuzzel social links you’ve shared. Of course, like all other newsletters you can promote specific content and see detailed analytics.
Perhaps the best thing about teaching in any form, even via newsletter, is that one learns along the way. Given the nature of the Internet and the treasure of content, there is little doubt that curating for your newsletter will help you learn and discover new content for yourself too.
Are there any other ways you use social media to learn things? Have you ever tried to curate content online? What do you think about the potential for social media to learn and disseminate information? Do share in the comments below!