This week, the global cities of Bogota, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Milan celebrate "Social Media Week," with events and seminars focused on the use of digital media for building community, fostering civic collaboration, and empowering individuals. 

And it's not just cities that are recognizing the need for formal events and initiatives aimed at social media education. College students have also taken up a similar goal.

In a guest post today, Alex Priest discusses his efforts with other students at American University to educate not only their peers but also faculty about the potential--and pitfalls--of social media in personal, professional, and classroom use. As social media correspondent at AoE, Alex will be contributing guest posts on the topic across the year.--Matthew Nisbet


In case you haven't noticed, social media has become a big deal. A really big deal. So big that, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, between April 2009 and May 2010, social networking use among internet users ages 18 to 29 grew to a whopping 86 percent. And it's not just young people; During the same period social media use among users ages 50-64 grew by 88 percent--up to 47 percent--and actually doubled among those 65 and older, to 26 percent.

These are just numbers, but they solidify a widely held view—social media is changing the way we communicate and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

My name is Alex Priest and I'm a senior major in the School of Communication at American University. The fact above is why I'm starting a social media club at my school this fall, and why I think it's essential that we start changing the way we look at social media as it relates to education, for both students and teachers alike.

Our organization is called AU-SMCEDU (American University Social Media Club Education Connection) and will eventually be part of a wide network of SMCEDU chapters at other colleges and universities. Our goals center around two ideas:

1. Teaching students and faculty the importance and utility of social media for learning, networking, and career-building.

2.  Changing the way faculty look at social media in the classroom; convincing them that instead of social media being a distraction, it can be a tool and a resource for education.

Over the past two years I've become extremely involved in social media here in Washington, D.C. I've used it to share things that interest me, learn from communications and marketing professionals, build a network, and even get internships and job opportunities. It's improved my writing, exposed me to new ideas, challenged the way I think, and enhanced my education like few other experiences have through my entire educational career. I'd like to share that with my classmates, and I'd like to see social learning become a part of our education culture.

Our organization has lofty goals and heaps of ambition. And of course there will be challenges: the mindset of some more traditional faculty members, the limits of technology, and the perceived limited utility of social media are all steep obstacles to overcome.

Throughout the rest of my senior year, I'll be working toward achieving some of our goals, largely through building this organization on the American University campus and working with others in the D.C. community to spread the word regionally—and even nationally. On this blog I'll be documenting some of our progress and some of the interesting innovations in social media education that I find along the way, and I hope you'll join me.

In addition, you can keep up with me on Twitter and my personal blog, and participate in SMCEDU-related discussions and progress through the SMCEDU Ning site, post by Alex Priest