Social media is the Socratic learning method on steroids

There is a lot of excitement around the use of social media as a possible learning tool, whether in the classroom or in online and distance education. (See the previous post on social media in education.)

I made the point that social media takes us back to a Socratic learning environment. To clarify: Socrates’ philosophical discussion groups, as described by Plato:

  1. Consisted of groups of men from various backgrounds and nationalities;
  2. Encouraged information-sharing and debates around conflicting ideas with the aim of reaching consensus;
  3. Were about group discussion and participation in an environment of equality. They were not about individuals showing off their intellect or about Socrates lecturing or teaching his “students”;
  4. Taught participants how to think critically and argue convincingly through exposure to opposing points of view;
  5. Treated questions as more important than answers, and dialogue as more important than teaching.

Social media is the Socratic method on steroids, since it allows students to collaborate and share ideas freely, wherever they are in the world.

However, the benefits of allowing social media into the classroom are yet to be demonstrated. See surveys and case studies involving technology in education.

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