Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Changing Our Views On Social Media For Learning






What do you think about when you hear those words?

Maybe you think about social media in general and how it’s continuing to grow. Or maybe you think about how those can be used as platforms to connect with others. Or maybe you think they are all a waste of time.

What do you think kids think about when they hear the names of those apps?

When it comes to social media and the use of these tools there is still a large disconnect between the platforms kids use and what we use in the classroom. Make any mention of using Snapchat as a tool for storytelling and your audience may look at you with dismay.

For many adults, especially educators, these tools don’t have a place in the classroom. They are seen as platforms to merely be social. And kids also don’t see them as a tools to incorporate into their everyday learning. Although I would bet if we asked them, they’d want to.

So that’s what I did.

My sister is 17. She’s getting ready to be a Senior in high school. She has profiles on all these social media services and more. She posts pictures of her friends, places she goes and stuff she sees. Most of it is pretty mundane. Some it though like the images and Vines she posts about her learning Latin are pretty awesome. So I asked her. What if these tools were used in your classrooms? What if you could create Snapchat stories or use Instagram to document your learning? What would you think?

“I’d definitely be more engaged! All the kids at my school use these. Then we go into boring classrooms and feel like we are disconnected from our lives. So if we had the chance to use these I’d be excited to go to school everyday.”

Well said Celia. Well said.

Many of the tools and apps I write about are still considered non-traditional. They are that way because they’ve yet to hit the mainstream of education. Just the mentioning of the name “Snapchat” conjures up images of students trading inappropriate images and text messages. Or say the word “Twitter” and instantly some believe it’s a waste of time with people writing about which celebrity crush they have or which sporting event they are at.

It’s these adult attitudes towards emerging technologies that perpetuate the myths around them.

Are there examples of the inappropriate use of any of these technologies? Sadly they are easy to find. But stop and think for a moment. What if we as educators looked at any of these apps and found ways to incorporate them into learning. We could redefine how they were being used by kids and, at the same time, have embedded conversations about how they should be used appropriately.

How can you do that? Where would you begin to even examine how any of these tools could be used in the course of learning? Here are just a few ways each of these services could be used in the classroom.

Note-The point here isn’t that you have to use all of them or one of them. The point is to think differently about these apps and social media in general to understand the realm of possibility.

Snapchat-I recently discovered Snapchat as a great way to tell stories. What most folks don’t know is that while Snapchat is most known for images and text that disappear there is a powerful feature called My Story where the images don’t disappear and you can post video too. This could be used, just like it is called, to tell a story. I travel frequently so I use My Story to document the town or city I am in. What I see and where I go. Then anyone can follow along. (You can follow me there if you’d like. Add me by the username Web20Classroom.) There are lots of other ways to use Snapchat too. This post from Edweek highlights not only how to get started with Snapchat for learning but also how it could be used for Professional Development as well.

Facebook-Of all the apps here Facebook is probably the most “mainstream.” Many schools and districts are using Facebook to promote news items, events and to celebrate all that is good. But there is more that Facebook can offer the classroom. Groups for projects, a space for conversation and more. This guide commissioned by an educational think tank in the UK has some really great ideas for introducing Facebook to your classroom.

Instagram-By using a simple camera app a series of images can be powerful. I train school and district leaders in the use of Instagram as a means to celebrate what is great in their schools. But Instagram can be powerful for kids too. Modeled after the Humans of New York series, the Stories of Waukee is completely student run and contains some very powerful stories. This article from We are Teachers has 10 easy ways to use Instagram in your classroom.

Vine-A lot can happen in 7 seconds. And video, like images, can be a great way to capture learning, describe a particular event or more. I like Vine for the classroom because it’s so dead simple to use and videos are super short. Highlighting what kids are reading, science in 6 seconds, there are so many ideas for the use of Vine in the classroom. This article from Edutopia not only lays out why Vine (and Instagram video too) can be used for learning but shows some really awesome examples too.

Twitter-As many of you know, I’ve been advocating for the use of Twitter for professional growth and learning for many years. It is the best platform for reaching those experts where they are to learn from. However, many dismiss Twitter from the classroom as just noise or not having  a place for student learning. Quite the opposite is true. For example kids can use Twitter to connect to experts in the fields they are interested in pursuing for careers or have a chat with an author of a book they are reading. This guide from MindshiftKQED is full of ideas for getting started and how kids can use Twitter to take conversations from the classroom to beyond.

Instead of looking at these apps through a lens of inappropriate use, let’s reshape the conversation by embracing these as tools for learning while having conversations about how digital tools can and should be used in the best ways possible.

photo credit: Social Media via photopin (license)
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