Clubhouse and digital literacy

This article was originally published in Czech at Spomocnik.cz.

It is maybe a sign of my professional bias that I considered the possibilities of using Clubhouse in education from the very first moment I started using it. And certainly not only for me, but also for my students (18+).

So, I see this social network mainly as a platform for expanding my personal learning environment or as a professional learning network for meeting people involved with education and sharing inspiration or experience within thematically oriented rooms.

Why Clubhouse and how does it work?

You are likely to ask the same question I did. Why, at a time when people are using video conferencing systems like Discord, Zoom, Meet, Teams etc. for online communication, is there such an expansion and growth in popularity of a platform that is based on real-time, so-called synchronous communication using audio only, without recording, archiving or chat (February 2021)?

Nonetheless, after a few hours of using Clubhouse you will understand. With simplicity and directness, the platform recommends thematically oriented rooms based on who you follow or which clubs you are a member of. Once you enter a room, you can listen to the speakers ‘on stage’ and join in the discussion there if invited by the moderator, or simply be in the room as part of the non-speaking audience.

The whole interaction is managed using your mic e.g. by switching it on and off quickly you express agreement with or appreciation of the speaker (as applause) or in a similar way, you can give the moderator of the room a sign that you want to reply to those who spoke before you.

Direct connection between people is usually arranged through Twitter or Instagram, the links to which users add to their Clubhouse profiles. It goes without saying that speakers ‘on stage’ have their microphones muted if they are not speaking or leave the stage to give a chance to someone else to talk.

More about tips and rules here.

FOMO and a double test of digital literacy

On Clubhouse, you will be confronted with a situation you know from other social networks. You start following just a few dozen people and can very soon be flooded with notifications if you do not switch them off or manage your settings properly. Suddenly, you realize that you are spending many hours a day there. And then you are just a few steps away from the FOMO syndrome (Fear of Missing Out) when you start feeling that you will miss something (interesting people, topics, ideas, etc.) if you do not use it. So, Clubhouse can easily test you twice, not only in terms of the skills you have on the platform as a listener, speaker or moderator, but also whether you are able to stop using it for any length of time.

Clubhouse and teachers

Clubhouse really seems to be an ideal platform for the professional development of teachers. You follow leading teachers and other personalities in education you know from other social media, such as Twitter (they usually use the same username here) or you choose Education as your interest. After that, Clubhouse will offer you relevant events with a variety of educational, and of course other, content based on what rooms you follow or have just visited.

You can also organize your own events or become a member of existing clubs and arrange events there. The clubs are currently (February 2021) created by Clubhouse administrators based on filling in a form. More about clubs here.

As there are still neither recordings nor chat on Clubhouse, the event moderators usually solve this by using a Twitter thread where they insert links for interesting services the speakers mentioned inside the room or creating a Slack for more extensive cooperation. Links for these threads or for any other related materials are added to the event description.

Clubhouse and students

If my first idea was about the possible use of Clubhouse for teachers, the second, unsurprisingly, did not lead to anywhere else but to students. The day after I joined, I asked them what they thought about this social network and whether they were planning to use it. We discussed it together starting with WHY and finishing with WHAT and HOW questions.

They did not seem to be too impressed by Clubhouse, which could be because they already meet very often, for example on Discord, either for common everyday online communication or when playing games.

However, when I was thinking about the benefits of Clubhouse for students and about its potential development in their digital and SEL (Social-emotional Learning) education, there was something else in my mind than just informal talks.

Just as our students learn presentation skills (I do not mean PowerPoint), and how to create a video or a podcast, in Clubhouse they can also learn to moderate live shows in real time and ideally also in a foreign language. And we teachers could show them the best methods and techniques and set a good example.

Good moderation of a Clubhouse event may be a big challenge even for professionals, especially if the people you invite to the stage start disrupting the meeting in various ways or distract it from the course you planned at the beginning. But that is another story.

A first look

After a few weeks of using Clubhouse, it is hard to predict where this social network will be in a month or a year. Some people believe in its growth and in the long term they see it as being quite mature, which it has tried to be from the start, for instance by establishing a so-called ‘One Strike Policy’ that closes the platform to anyone who violates the rules just once.

So, the potential of Clubhouse remains quite considerable despite its limits (interaction exclusively via real-time audio) which is proved, among other things, by the creativity of its users.

The reason why so many people are interested in Clubhouse now is that they simply do not want to miss the moment when a new phenomenon is born and repeat the same mistake they made many years ago when they missed getting into YouTube early.

So, if you still think this is not for you, that you do not have the time and energy for another social media platform, try to give it a chance. It may open the door to new contacts and opportunities for you, from which your students could ultimately benefit. You say that you do not have an iPhone or iPad? No problem. An Android app will be available soon. And then you just need an invitation, if, indeed, they will still be required.

Educator and EdTech Editor of Spomocnik.cz

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