Along with textbooks, exams, and hanging out with friends, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter make up almost every high school or college student’s life. This is one reason an upstart service called Ello is quickly gaining traction with social media users. By some estimates, Ello is adding an astounding 30,000 new users every hour.
What Is Ello?
Ello is an invitation-only social media service that began in the spring of 2014. Prospective users can receive an invite from someone who is already a member or by requesting one at Ello.co. Ello’s founders instituted the invitation-only process as a marketing tool to make the service appear to be more exclusive than the one billion-user Facebook. It also prevents the site from becoming overwhelmed with unhappy Facebook users.
What makes Ello different and appealing is its focus on safeguarding user privacy. Unlike Facebook, Ello has instituted a no-advertisement, no data-mining policy. Ello bills itself as being “simple, beautiful & ad-free.” Users are also not required to use their real names, allowing them to preserve their anonymity. Many disgruntled Facebook users are tired of being bombarded with ads and have concerns about privacy — and they are the ones who are quickly making the switch to Ello. Some individuals are even referring to Ello as the “anti-Facebook.”
Current Use of Social Media in Education
The use of social media in the educational process has become widespread in recent years. According to one survey, as many as 61 percent of teachers, principals, and librarians actively use at least one social media platform. Not all educators are comfortable with using public forums as a teaching tool, in large part due to concerns about the privacy and well-being of their students.
However, there are a number of social media sites that are viewed as engaging and safe for students. Examples include:
- Twiducate: A free service that allows teachers and students to collaborate. Twiducate enables teachers to create a private classroom community by giving them total control over whom they allow to participate.
- TweenTribune: A social media site that allows students to stay up-to-date on current events. One potential drawback to this service is that it contains advertisements.
- Wikispaces Classroom: A free, invitation-only site that features newsfeeds and a variety of communication tools. Wikispaces Classroom can be used for collaboration between students, parents, educators, and administrators.
- Skype: Many educators love Skype for its ability to bring outside sources into the classroom via live video feed.
- Sumdog: Specifically geared toward elementary school students, Sumdog is an educational gaming site that allows kids to play against other students and add friends to their accounts.
There are also a number of social media sites that are favored by college students:
- Cramster: This is a type of Q & A site where students can ask questions and seek advice from subject matter experts on a wide range of academic-related topics.
- InternshipRatings.com: College students can use this site to learn about available internships. They can also gain insight into the quality of specific internships based on the experiences of previous participants.
- Box.net: Box.net is used by individual students as well as larger groups — such as fraternities — as a collaboration tool.
- Zumeo: Zumeo is an online job search tool that allows students to upload resumes and network with potential employers.
- CampusBooks: This site appeals to many students who are used to standing in line and paying high prices for textbooks at the college bookstore. With CampusBooks, students can enjoy the convenience of buying and selling books online.
How Might Ello Impact the Future of Education?
The defining characteristics of the above sites are connectivity and collaboration. From an education standpoint, social media gives educators additional avenues to collaborate with students and potentially bring parents into the process. Students can also form connections with other students and experts who can assist them in the learning process.
While the relative newness of Ello makes it difficult to project its potential impact, we can use other social media sources as a guide. As with any social media platform, Ello offers the benefit of easy collaboration between educators, students, and parents. Its focus on privacy, anonymity, and lack of exposure to advertising makes it appealing to teachers and parents alike. The invitation-only feature would also allow teachers to limit participation to specific groups of students, making to easier to connect with and engage them.