Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Role Should Social Media Play In Education?

Over the past few weeks I have discussed how to begin using Social Media in your school or district, I have talked about Social Media Policies and I regularly share tips and tools on how to get the most out of Social Media applications. Last night was #edchat night. Our topic centered around what role Social Media should play in education. This stemmed from our desire to be a part of the 140 Conference (which I am happy to report, we are going to be a part of. Our panel was accepted and we will be appearing on Day 2.).

As always, the discussion was amazing. We were joined by, of course, teachers, but we also had several administrators, technology trainers, a superintendent, a member of a school board and parents. Here are just some of what people thought:
  • Social media offers students a way to collaborate on global teams to problem solve on global issues. In schools, students can learn digital citizenship, how to communicate on ICTs, how to work on teams that are located in various areas, and learn to communicate effectively with others of various backgrounds, cultures, and genders. All career fields require effective communication and collaboration with co-workers and most on smart phones and social forums. We must prepare students for a globalized world!
  • Social Media is a motivating tool to foster students' participation in the learning process. Teachers should plan lessons very careful so as to create really interactive environments.
  • Students need to be exposed to the various tools to aid in the educational process, whether they be traditional or cutting edge. They should be taught the strengths and weaknesses of these tools, and have the opportunity to use them. Students need to learn that they can gather information from many sources: print resources, online resources, experts in person and online, and fellow classmates. Group collaboration can sometimes be the strongest tool. One of the greatest developments is the extension of the classroom from 8 to 3 to all hours. Students can do work when it is convenient, and ask classmates and teachers for help when away from school. The boundaries have widened, and that is a good thing.
  • Social Media can help teachers develop better teaching practices.
  • Unfortunately, my district bans many SM tools for fear of educators wasting their day at work. Then, the district advocates for collaboration and learning communities. I believe the district does not see how Social Media is a powerful tool to develop more specific Professional Learning Communities and need some help understanding how it can help as opposed to waste time during the school day.
  • Social Media provides a dynamic avanue to connect our students with us, their peers, experts, knowledge, and experiences. SM enhances instruction and has the ability to allow students to create their own Personal Learning Networks. As always in education, it is our (schools) role to effectively enable the students with the skills necssary to take full advantage of the tools.
  • Learning is a social activity- as educators, we need to understand this very basic truth. The more we embrace it, the more successful we'll be in educating our students. Unfortunately, education has historically focused on disconnecting learners from social interaction. The move to genuine collaboration and cooperation is a slow process for many, as they reach beyond their comfort levels.
  • How does a country block social media and social media tools when they used them to elect their President?
You can read more comments here, and read the archive here.

For the participants, it was clear; Social Media in Education is here to stay. We have to embrace it and use it to engage our students. Over and over, I kept hearing how students should not be bound by the walls of their classroom. How true is that! Social Media provides amazing opportunities for students to see beyond their town to other places around their country and further, around the world. The pen-pal has been replaced by a Skype pal.

While the discussion center around the need for more use of these Social Media applications in schools there was also a discussion about access. As we have heard in the past, access is an issue. For some, the access issue was simply about hardware. Not enough computers or projectors. For others, the problem was much greater.

All over this country there are Administrators, Superintendents and Boards of Education that see no benefit of the use of these tools. Their minds have been poisoned by the negatives they hear in the press and read in the newspaper. Instead of using opportunities like the Megan Meier situation to teach our students about responsible Internet use or allow our students to harness the power of a collection of learners on Twitter, we simply block these and other similar programs. What does that teach our students?? I have said that and said that and said that. We do nothing but hold our students back when we do not provide access to these tools. And think about it? What are our students doing when they leave our classrooms for the day? They are going home and using the tools to connect with others. Let's, as educators, use that to our advantage! Take down the filters, knock down the walls and teach these kids the way they need to be taught and the way they want to learn!

What do you think? What is the role of Social Media in Education? Does it have place? If so, why? If not, why? What can we do to provide students and teachers better access to these tools? What other thoughts to you have?

Image From Flickr Creative Commons. View The Original Here.


  1. Hey Steve,
    as I said, this was one of the best edchats so far. You guys are doing a great job :).

    For me as an independent language teacher it is really hard to understand the problems you have in the public school sector. It seems all so illogical, that's why I asked how a country can block social media when they used them to elect their president. Here in Europe the US is THE posterchild for the use of social media.

    I think it is really cool that you will be on the 140conf to represent the educational sector. To my mind it does not get the attention it deserves. Education is the basis for everything, you have to do it right from the beginning.

    Here in Europe we have a trend that the government "outsources" problems to companies. In Germany we had a big discussion about bad grades in school. Instead of doing something about it, we got more and more private lessons and a huge market was born. Maybe we will see this for the whole education system, too.

    Platforms like eduFire, WiZiQ and others are already offering a wide variety of courses and they use Social Media naturally. So maybe there will be a shift from public school education towards company based education. Just thinking a bit ;)

  2. Great Blog....I am researching Social Media as a tool for college bound students for my Master's thesis. Any thoughts? Your feedback/expertise would be greatly appreciated. My email: Thanks