Thursday, March 11, 2010

Social Media In The Classroom...

Recently at NCTIES Kevin Honeycutt spoke on Personal Learning Networks. I did not attend the session however a quote from it, tweeted and retweeted several times really resonated with me (and several others). He said, "I am smart. But with my PLN, I am brilliant!" So true! The connections we make with those in our PLN help to make us brilliant. I have people in my PLN from all corners of the globe that I know I can call upon when I have a question, need feedback on a project or just to "talk shop." I consider all of these people my colleagues and friends. And it would have been difficult, nigh impossible, to have these kinds of connections and relationships without social media.

So if these connections and relationships work so well for our educators, why could they not work for our students?

The topic on #edchat this week centered around Social Media and the role it currently plays in education and the role it should play in education. A very active debate took place with people on all sides. Here is just a taste of what was said.

  • Changes in education are inevitable but still MUCH too slow in some areas
  • I don't see any change at all at my school since the district is trying its best to block any and all social media.
  • Social Media can connect to both like-minded people but also expose people to divergent viewpoints.
  • Break down the motar and brick walls... schools are open 24/7/365 with student access to teacers and teachers to other teachers.
  • Social Media makes the world a classroom, and the world has so much that it can teach!
  • Is social media more rewarding to teachers & professional development, or to students & their learning? My hunch is BOTH. 
  • Everything (even good things) have down-sides. If we don't debate and acknowledge problems, we're bound to make mistakes.
  • Negative Side = There will always be examples of misconduct by students and authority figures to scare community away.
  • If we do not use and work with social media we risk becoming irrelevant.
  • Students seek greater control over their learning experiences and a number of technologies grant them this control.
  • What will we do when our students come back to us in a few years and can't land jobs because of irresponsible Social Media use? 
  • Change? Shift begins with a realization. Hope some more have had the realization. Change begins with YOU! 

I really do encourage you to take some time to read through the entire archive. Well worth it!

Here are some of my thoughts...

Social Media in education can be and sometimes is messy. There are obvious benefits. The connections that kids can make with other kids in other classes, states and across the world are unrivaled in education today. So the question still remains. We want our kids to be ready to "compete in a global society," and be "21st Century." Yet when they come to school we take away their cellphones and block them from services like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and others. We sit them in their rows and stand in the front of the room and lecture to them.

There is an argument that social media has no place in the classroom and students should avoid it at all costs. There are dangerous people out there and we need to protect our kids and shelter them from everything. Look. Any intelligent person knows that these kids are still going to access these services even when we are not looking. So instead of blocking and restricting access why not teach kids about how to be responsible when they use them? We can "educate" our kids to death when it comes to math and reading for test taking sake but when it comes to teaching them some really valuable skills we shy away, lock it down, and expect the social media problem to just go away.

Social Media has a place in the classroom. Kids need to be able to harness the amazing powers that social media provides. We do workshops and seminars and talks about why teachers should have a PLN and how to get one. What about kids? Why do we deny kids the same?

That is not to say that Social Media does not come with problems. The recent cases of Megan Meire, and more recently a free speech case in Florida demonstrate that things could, and sometimes do, get out of hand. But that should still not detour us from allowing students to harness the power that social media can bring into our classrooms.

It all starts with education. Teaching our kids, not when they are in 8th grade or high school but in Kindergarten about the responsible uses of Social Media, how to stay safe online, and about cyberbullying. And these lessons should continue all the way through college because kids, even at that age, need to understand that pictures from that late night party posted to their Facebook page might not help them get a job.

So does Social Media have a place in the classroom? Yes. If not for the friendships and connections that kids can make but simple for the opportunities to teach our kids about the role that Social Media can, does and will play in our lives.

1 comment:

  1. I was cruising FB last night for the first time in a while. Through a weird series of connections, I found some of my MS students connected to some groups that a couple of teachers were too. One of the students even created an unauthorized fan page for the school, but that's not really the point. For the heck of it, I browsed through the friend list of one of the kids. She was connected to roughly one-third of our student body. Why can't we channel this and use it to enhance their learning?