Are Open source tools and social media in the same category?
The experience of using both social media and open source tools is not newly found. I do not want to generalize all social media as the same, but for the purpose of this story I will group Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn as “social media”. When using these social media tools and other open source tools, no one thinks of them as being open source unless you are trying to leverage and build upon or repurpose the code. The fact that they are open source is true, but not important to most.
There are actually hundreds of social media programs that uniquely define points of interest with many varied user groups. I consider each of these social media resources as very personal and highly controlled elements of my life. The rank ordering for me is LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter. I am sure that if a popularity survey were performed with a large USA audience, it would show different results. I use LinkedIn on a daily basis. When I am looking to find a business connection, it proves to be a good resource. If you are looking to hire someone or to be hired, it is the one of the best shopping resources for talent. I limit my Facebook activity to a very limited and special audience. I do not want to provide Facebook invites to my business network. I limit my Facebook friends to those that I want to maintain a close and private relationship. Different people have different usage styles on Facebook. Some wish to share all elements of their life with every minute detail. I quickly learned how to delete those individuals from my network.
When you sign up for most social media, you click yes to a complicated usage agreement and most subscribers do not ask at that time how to deactivate or delete an account. I learned that it takes about 90 days to delete your account and you can also just deactivate your account for a period of time and none of your data is lost. If you are thinking about dying anytime soon, you need to have a delegate take over your account or you will be eternally receiving messages.
When asking the question if social media should be used for teaching and learning, the answer will be the same for any component that is used for teaching and learning. The best answer is that you should use the right tool for the right job with the right audience. Start with your epistemology and pedagogy and create your learning environment with the appropriate instructional design. Many years ago when the CD-ROM and Internet were being evaluated for teaching and learning purposes the same questions was asked. Even though the technology was capable of being used appropriately, not everyone had access to the Internet with the same level of performance and not all computers had CD-ROM. The same might be said for today regarding the usage of some of these social media programs. I do not want my school lessons integrated with my Facebook. I think Twitter is an awesome marketing and communication tool that is faster than the speed of light, however I have not yet seen any educational value with Twitter. Maybe if it were integrated with an open source LMS like Moodle or Canvas or BlackBoard, there could be some learning and teaching value created. The open source technology that is incorporated in the LMS environment is brilliantly deployed. Instead of everyone competing on features, they commit to the open source principles and allow many people to innovate and add functionality and reliability into their products. You do not have to be a C# coding expert to take advantage of the open source features of the LMS. This approach to designing new learning systems is the future. There are a dozen open source LMS on the market that have no licensing fee. However, there is a cost to deploy and support the LMS so that needs to be part of the decision process when you start to evaluate the use in an educational environment. If you have a thousand people that are familiar with Moodle and you need support from within your educational community and teaching group and you have 5 people that are familiar with Canvas, then the odds are your support decision will be biased towards Moodle, unless the level of support required by Canvas is much less. The cost of support is certainly offset by the lack of license fees.
Keep in mind Moore’s Law that technology doubles in performance every 18 months. The entire social media environment will change with the “Internet of Everything”