Thursday, November 12, 2009

Social Media Causes Social Deficits?? What?

Recently, I was reading some reflections on some blogs from some teachers I am working with in my district. There was one that really caught my eye and has caused me to do some heavy reflecting over the past few days. Here is what was said:

"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.


  1. A corollary situation exists with writing. Clearly, Web 2.0 has significantly increased the amount of writing. More people are writing about more things in more ways than at any time in history—witness what we are doing even now on this blog—yet too many writing teachers refuse to regard texting, chatting, twittering, even blogging as real writing, and they censure it.

    Fortunately, the kids are ignoring this and flowing on without the nay-sayers.

  2. This is definitely a great area for on-going conversation. I feel that social media allows more students to engage in conversation and collaboration than at any time in history. It allows the reluctant student to gain confidence in a manner that may be a little less intimidating than the traditional model where students had to give input verbally in front of peers. This is not an either or proposition. Web 2.0 will allow students to collaborate and communicate more often, but we should also make sure there are opportunities to communicate in front of peers in a classroom setting.

    In regards to our students growth in this area being retarded by social media, I have to agree that this is a poor presumption.

    I have also heard staff say that students do not write as well as they have in the past because of all of the informal writing that takes place on blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. But a five-year study at Stanford has blow this hypothesis out of the water as well. According to the study which is referenced in the following blog post, we are in a literacy revolution where students are writing more than at any time in history. Because of this increased amount of writing, students are writing better.

    The fact that new technology will allow us to get more students communicating and collaborating is a great thing! Embrace the opportunities that are out there and enjoy the fact that we can have 100-percent engagement in a class of students with some of the tools now available. How many times has that happened in our classrooms?

  3. Not only do I completely agree with your statement about how we need to change our ideas of collaboration and interaction (really I agree with your entire post whole-heartedly), but I think it's also important to note that social media isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It's just spreading. So yes, I think that teacher is stuck in old times, and yes, I think we should EMBRACE social media because kids are going to use it anyway - might as well integrate it into education.

    Thanks for a great post,
    Elizabeth @SimpleK12