According to a Nielsen report, three of today’s most popular brands are “social media” (Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia). Despite public outcries about privacy, Facebook has over 500 million active users and seems to be growing by fifty million users every few months. Twitter has over 105 million registered users; the 300,000 new users who sign up each day signal its ongoing growth; Twitter receives 180 million unique visitors each month and most of its traffic (75%) comes from third-party clients and applications. These examples are just a few signals of the ubiquity of social media. For many young people today, the popularity of social media tools is undeniable. Social media (it seems) provides access, opportunities and information that is limitless, borderless and instantaneous.
However, current research about social media and digital divides quickly demonstrate how access to today’s media tools as popular forms of communication need to consider issues of equity. As Barney explains, “for some people access to the Internet is a source of empowerment, autonomy, and agency, for many it simply means connection to a technological infrastructure in relation to which they remain significantly disadvantaged and powerless.” The challenge for schools and teachers is to leverage today’s social media in ways that create relevant learning experiences that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures. To this end, educators have begun to consider “21st Century Skills” defined as one’s capacity to engage in lifelong learning (i.e., self-directed and collaborative inquiry) and connectedness (i.e., communication and collaboration with experts and peers around the world).
Such capacities ask educators to consider social media both as a critical resource and a functional tool. As teachers begin to adopt social media as part of their teaching practice these tools become both a subject and object of inquiry. For example, Facebook can be a classroom management tool while providing important lessons about online privacy and behaviour; Twitter can provide a useful backchannel for class participation while functioning as a resource for professional sharing and collaboration. To these ends, Lipton reviews and considers these examples by addressing: (1) media access; (2) digital equity; (3) teachers’ barriers to media use/integration; (4) pedagogical models and examples; and (5) ideas for action.
 <http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/social-media-accounts-for-22-percent-of-time-online/>. June 2010.
 <http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics#!/press/info.php?factsheet>. Accessed August 2010.
Actual number: 105,779,710
 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/14/twitter-user-statistics-r_n_537992.html> & <http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/14/twitter-has-105779710-registered-users-adding-300k-a-day/>. April 2010. Accessed August 2010.
 Barney, Darin. (2005). Communication Technology. Vancouver: UBC Press, pp. 155-156.
 21st Century Skills are defined as a finding from the IEA SITES 2006 study. The results of the third module of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement’s (IEA) Second Information Technology in Education Study (SITES) were conducted in 2006. The full report is edited by Nancy Law (University of Hong Kong), Willem Pelgrum and Tjeerd Plomp (both from Twente University, The Netherlands). It was published in 2008 by the CERC-Springer, Hong Kong SAR.
So thrilled to see my students participate with wikispaces for my new course in social media. Interested in participating? Let me know. . .
Here’s a link to our class wiki.