"While the students are coming to school more knowledgeable about technology, a teacher in a session at the NCAE conference in Greensboro this weekend brought up a possible caveat. He said that students are using so much technology that they are not interacting with adults and other kids enough. He feels that kids are coming to school with more social skills deficits that they used to. I wonder what time and research will determine about that."
I stopped dead in my tracks. Could that teacher have actually said that, or, even worse, think that! How many other teachers think social media causes social deficits? And why would they think that?
I am not a psychologist or social scientist. I have never studied behavior or congnition in kids. I have, however, been a teacher. I have seen kids, been around kids and have a pretty good idea of how they work.
I was a Middle School Teacher for several years. Specifically I taught 7th and 8th grade science. So I was lucky enough (some would say tourtured) to see the amazing transtion students undergo as the move into adolescents. If there was one thing I can safely say about the vast majority of kids between the ages of 11-15 is that they like to be social. They like to talk, and interact with eachother. I knew that anytime I put kids together in groups I would get the best work. So I learned early on in my teaching that if I really wanted students to succeed and feel success they needed to work together. Was the talk all the time about their work, no way. But could I see how much better their work was then they worked together as opposed to individually? Yes!
There is reason it is called "social media." Social. I think perhaps the teacher that made the statement is stuck in the past a bit. These kids do not interact in same ways they did just 10 or 20 years ago. I have seen kids sit right next to each other carrying on a conversation through texts. They go home and they get on IM and Facebook and interact. Perhaps adults need to change their concept of "interact."
I would argue that technology, specifically, social media makes it easier for students to interact. Its what they know. So then the converstation moves to how can use what they already know and put it to good use in the classroom. Services like Edmodo and Tiny Chat, wikis and blogs, all incorporate technology and still allow for collaboration and interaction.
Social Media and other technologies allow students to collaborate and interact with other students all over the world. (Isn't that what we really want, anyway?) So lets start a movement. Lets change our ideas of what collaboration and interaction really means. Lets begin to embrace these Social Media tools and integrate them into the classroom and show kids that they can be used for learning and interacting instead of casting them aside as a fad that will pass.
Image from Flickr CC Search. View the orginial here.