Helen Keegan is a Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media and Social Technologies at the University of Salford, UK, and recently wrote a post outlining one particular experience in using social media with her grad class. Working with MSc. students, Helen had the students blog and use Twitter as part of an exercise in developing a digital identity. She goes on to describe “the eureka moment” for the students on how powerful these tools can be in connecting and engaging with people who are working in their field of study. For some context on the excerpt below, Jeremy Silver is (among other things) the acting-CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition in the UK and a prominent figure in the UK music industry.
There were some hugely influential and heart-warming examples of the benefits of students developing a professional online ID. One of these took place after our IP/Digital Rights week, when each student was asked to write a post in response to Jeremy Silver’s blog. Silver had found this post (pingback?) and left a really positive comment. That was a eureka moment for all – the idea that they could write a post, and one of the industry’s leading figures value their perspective, treat them as peers, and take the time to enter into conversation with them. This was soon followed by one of the group telling me how he’d tweeted his Audioboo blog post, and ’this guy retweeted it, said something really positive about my post – think he might actually work for Audioboo’. It was Mark Rock, the CEO…
When Jeremy Silver and Mark Rock took the time to read the student blog posts, comment positively and re-tweet, they added so much to the learner experience and i’m pretty sure they won’t have realised just how influential those acknowledgements would be – not just to the two students, but to the whole group. They were the missing link between our students seeing themselves as apprentices and professionals, the whole ‘linking education to industry through social software’ idea, which although we have been focusing on for a few years now, has never been experienced in such a potent way.
As a student, I have experienced moments like this. It is an exhilarating feeling to see that your words and thoughts have moved someone you admire or respect to action, and provide a response. It is a highly validating and motivating moment as you begin to realize that you are moving beyond being a student of a subject to being a practitioner in a field.