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Innovation & Startups

Move over Facebook, CMU's Classroom Salon takes social media to the educational level

Imagine Facebook with a learning component, a social media app that brings students together to facilitate learning.

That's the idea behind Carnegie Mellon's Classroom Salon, a social media application that is engaging students in online learning communities, tapping the power of collective group intelligence.

Quietly launched last summer in beta, Classroom Salon has been piloted at several area highschools and colleges as well as in Ithaca, New York. Over 6000 users use the app, and with outstanding academic results.

"Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have captured the attention of young people in a way that blogs and online discussion forums have not," says Ananda Gunawardena, an associate professor in the Computer Science Department. "Collective intelligence studies show that the average intelligence of the group is higher than if a student is on his or her own."

Classroom Salon affords students a level of privacy, he adds. In a salon, students come to trust each other and form friendships like a Facebook group. They tend to open up more.

A salon is typically created by a group of five or six students. The students upload their pictures, a teacher or two joins in and homework is uploaded into the salon. Students are then free to discuss the subject and work on problems together. While initially focused on the humanities, the salons are now expanding into the STEM subjects.

The Salon was developed in a thesis by grad student Alex Cheek, now a professor at CMU. Cheek is joined by David Kaufer, a professor of English, and Gunawardena. The project has received funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Innovation Works.

"Our goal is to go really big," says Gunawardena. "It is a true right brain, left brain project."

See Classroom Salon in action on YouTube!

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Ananda Gunawardena, CMU

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