Social Media

Communication is an important tool in any educational environment, but when used as a teaching tool, social media can be a powerful method of relaying information to a group of individuals. There are many different types of social media, with Facebook being one of the most utilized and well known. Clark explained that Facebook can be a valuable educational tool because it has the potential to inspire users to collaborate and share knowledge and experiences in a social media group setting, while targeting a specific population. For example, similar to the healthcare professional who has a Facebook group dedicated to reaching Type 1 diabetics, the nurse educator can utilize social media as a tool to get information out to nursing students, or utilize this media to deliver announcements or resources with just a click.

Social media has become an essential part of online daily activity, as social media websites and similar applications multiply. Facebook allows an individual to create a profile; choose privacy options; and upload and share photos, videos, and life events, along with a plethora of other opportunities for staying connected to a specific group or community of individuals. From a business perspective, social media can be utilized to educate, communicate, market, and promote businesses or products, and attract new, as well as stay connected to current, customers. In healthcare, social media can be an inexpensive and far-reaching tool to promote education for patients, for example, by distributing pertinent information related to a specific health condition. This provides the individual with a casual forum where they are able to ask questions, learn, share experiences and tips, or develop and build a support system with others that have similar health difficulties.

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Can one Tweet contain a meaningful or powerful message in 280 characters or less? Twitter allows an individual to create a personal Twitter handle; then, using a smartphone, iPad, or computer, the person may send out messages to those who are followers, and retweet or forward messages from those the user is following. Twitter users can also follow specific sites or content, using a hashtag (#) before a keyword (#DiabetesSux or #lovemydog). A study by Waldrop and Wink (2016) found support for the use of Twitter in nursing education, and the authors suggested that, in some respects, it may not yet be utilized to its full potential. Using this technology to send out course-related information, announcements, links to current events, or additional activities for learning has been received well by students. The potential for Twitter use to send out follow-up information to the class to encourage dialog, and after-hours connection and learning from one another, are also positive considerations, which, again, reinforces the sense of community and belonging.

Other commonly used forms of social media include Instagram, a visual sharing application, where photos and videos may be shared by using a smartphone, allowing ­viewers to like their activity, tag others in specific photos, or leave comments. Interaction on Instagram is the same as other social networking where individual profiles are set up, and photographs posted from those followed are viewed in the follower’s newsfeed and vice versa.

If social networking interests are strictly professional, LinkedIn may be the answer. Individuals interested in growing their professional network or thinking of making a job or career move, often look to LinkedIn because human resource professionals, as well as recruiters, are on LinkedIn. Professionals may collaborate with like-minded ­individuals who may be able to add value to their line of work, whether locally, nationally, or internationally. LinkedIn allows members to conduct polls on various topics. LinkedIn ­provides the opportunity for its users to blog, network, post a resume, apply for jobs, and ­follow specific businesses or specific interests. In other words, it is Facebook for business professionals.

Should social media be used in education? The advantages are numerous, and the opportunity for students to collaborate is a great way for the shy student to open up and post in an online forum, building confidence and encouraging participation. Students may ask a question regarding an assignment or lecture or for assistance by posting to the wall where all group members can see it, permitting all students to review the follow up responses; or they may view an announcement from faculty.

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