At Your Fingertips: Live (Free) Feeds With Insights Into any Topic From, Resources Across the World
If you want to know what the buzz is about current events, politics, sporting events, or anything else that's going on, social listening can give you insights traditional media channels won't, in a more real time manner. It can also connect you with experts and industry figures directly.
Granted, it is possible, and indeed likely, that you will see content that isn't appropriate for younger students, so you need to keep this in mind (and yes, there's also a fair amount of noise and ‘clutter'). But the good news is that there are excellent free tools available that can allow you to monitor feeds from multiple popular social media sources all in one place, to efficiently mine and monitor these feeds for quality content.
Before continuing, I should take a moment to note that “social listening” is a term more widely recognized in the marketing world, where the implications are a little creepy frankly (it's about trying to identify buyers interests based on their social media content … for example, if someone has publicly shared an interest in designer shoes, they become a marketing target for those who sell shoes).
Social Listening for Learning and Research
So how might you use social listening in your classroom? One key decision is whether or not this approach is to be used by students in your classroom, or just by yourself as the teacher. In higher education, we can be a little more comfortable with the possibility of some inappropriate content possibly appearing in feeds than we can in K-12. For younger grades, teachers can tap into these resources and act as the requisite ‘filter', perhaps choosing to share reviewed feeds to a projection screen from time to time and reviewing good resources and information.
For examples of subject-specific use, here are a few ideas. I am confident these will spark some thoughts about how this might be relevant in your classes and courses.
- Science: Teaching a course about Physics? Tap into the #largehadroncollider hashtag! Want to know what's new with solar energy, try #solarenergy, #solarpower, #renewables, or #solarpanels. These are just a couple of examples. The fact is, you can google “hashtags for _____” and fill in the blank to find hashtags related to just about any subject. As you explore what you find, you will also come across experts and news sources focused on your area of interest that you can follow directly.
- Social Studies: Follow social media posts using the #POTUS hashtag to stay up on the Presidential election in the US, or follow events on a global scale by searching out relevant sources and hashtags to follow.
- Physical Education: Follow sources focused on exciting sporting events or developments in exercise and physical training trends. Popular social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat can offer a wealth of content and resources.
- Many, deeper level college courses: So many college courses focus at a deeper topic level, providing even better opportunities to find niche-focused, relevant content. Stay on top of the latest fashions and runway events in a clothing design course; tap into news about specific science topics – genetics, neurology, gerontology, etc.; learn about technology developments in Aerospace or Automotive Engineering, stay up on trend in Music and the Arts … the possibilities are limitless.
As you can see, it is entirely possible to tap into topic-specific postings, experts, analysts, personalities, and more, through the expanding world of social media.
Next, let's take a quick look at one approach to doing this efficiently.
My Recommendation: Hootsuite
There are numerous social listening apps out there, and many offer a wealth of functionality for free. My personal go-to app is Hootsuite, but it is by no means the only tool that does this sort of thing.
In the following “3 Minute TOOL-torial”, I introduce Hootsuite as a social listening tool. Hootsuite is also very useful for posting content, allowing you to post to multiple channels at once, and to schedule posts (this allows me to set up dozens of posts across multiple channels, spread out across the coming day, in 15 minutes or so each evening).
I hope you find this to be a useful idea. We'd love to hear about your experience with these or similar tools and techniques, so don't hesitate to share (that's the heart and soul of what EmergingEdTech is all about! :).