Interaction models for social media in teaching

Babak Esmaeili – University of Edinburgh

This work is part of an ongoing project at Edinburgh University (1) which has been looking at the ways social media is used to facilitate learning through different types of student and/or academic interaction to support specific pedagogical aims. We are particularly interested in the type of interactions that academics are attempting to foster, and how they might locate and employ appropriate tools to achieve these.

We analysed information from semi-structured interviews with lecturing staff from a range of disciplines across the University, looking both for the kinds of interactions being used, and the way in which tools were selected. Although we identified quite complicated interactions, we found little evidence of academics starting with a specific interaction in mind and then selecting an appropriate tool. We believe that this may be partly due to the difficulty in describing the interaction required, and then using this to locate a corresponding tool.

In this work, we have attempted to create a formal model for describing both the interactions, and the interaction capabilities of known tools, with the eventual aim of building an application which can automatically identify a range of tools, and ways of using them, to match a required interaction.

In this talk, we will briefly describe the formal model, and a prototype application. However, we found that the identification of relevant properties, such as the immediacy, or the privacy of a particular communication was crucial to an effective matching process. Regardless of any automatic solution, we noted that an explicit consideration of these properties was very helpful to staff in manually comparing and selecting appropriate tools.