The Social Media Classroom, a browser-based, free and open source environment for teaching and learning, grew directly out of the first minutes I stepped into a physical classroom and began to realize that I needed to readjust my assumptions about students, classrooms, and educational media. Five years ago, when I began to teach at Stanford and UC Berkeley, two places where I had expected web-based media to have permeated the classrooms, I was surprised to see blank looks on so many faces when I announced that students should start their personal blogging and wiki collaborations.
An interesting aspect of Twitter's recent surge in popularity has been how educators have embraced the technology, not just for networking and personal communication, but also in the classroom. Many teachers have found Twitter to be a helpful tool for accessing the backchannel—the discussion students are having about what is going on in the classroom—in real time. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, Jeffrey R. Young interviewed two teachers who use Twitter in large lecture courses, projecting students' Twitter posts in the classroom live. Experiments like these frighten many instructors.
Earlier this year, we issued a call for proposals for panels and presentations for the first Digital Media and Learning Conference, an annual event supported by the MacArthur Foundation and organized by the Digital Media and Learning Hub at University of California, Irvine. I was honored to be asked to be this year's conference chair. Our initial theme is "Diversifying Participation." Here's some of the language we used in formulating that theme: "A growing body of research has identified how young people's digital media use is tied to basic social and cultural competencies needed for full participation in contemporary society. We continue to develop an understanding of the impact of these experiences on learning, civic engagement, professional development, and ethical comprehension of the digital world. Yet research has also suggested that young people's forms of participation with new media are incredibly diverse, and that risks, opportunities, and competencies are spread unevenly