As the end of August approaches, I see some of my fellow classmates and even a few of my professors fall victim to back to school fever. Stores offer discounts on pencils, notebooks and the latest fashions, and teachers research new ways to entertain and relate to their students. While blackboards, overheads and chalk are common words associated with back to school season, social media tools are joining in on the fun.
According to Mashable, educators are utilizing new technology such as social media in response to over-sized classrooms and poorly motivated students. Author and educator, Greg Ferenstein, reports that Twitter and Skype are finding their way into the classroom:
- Instead of a syllabi that can get lost or thrown away, teachers are adopting Twitter to send out homework assignments and answer student questions.
- As a homework alternative, students are asked to write two to three education-related tweets a day.
- Twitter is being used by students to collaborate among each other.
- Students in foreign language classes are encouraged to talk to peers who are native to the language and live overseas.
- Skype also offers a unique way for students to meet for group projects – addressing scheduling constraints and alternative outlets for teacher inquiries.
As the classroom changes, so do the ways students prepare for school. Meez , a “virtual” playground, enables users to engage in social and multimedia activities to prepare for fall. A few years back, Sears partnered with Meez to create a back to school virtual closet for users. Students were able to make avatars, build a closet and try on clothes via their avatars. All of the outfit choices were available at Sears, and Meez offered users a captivating way to try out different fashions for the new school season. While Sears is not currently keeping up with with the virtual closet, companies like Vogue and Seventeen enable users to personalize an avatar to test out different outfits, and offer fashion tips based on users’ eye colors and hairstyles.
While I have not experimented with a virtual closet, I do have my first day of school outfit picked out and am full speed ahead on Twitter and Skype. Looking forward to the start of classes next week, marking my last year of grad school, I am trying to figure out ways to balance school and work. Luckily for me, I am continuing as an intern in the social media department and as schools adopt new technology, I have the best teachers (Karlie, Sarah, Jeff and Jess) at HM&P to help me transition.