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Bittersweet News for Social Media in Education

| Elana Leoni

We live in an incredibly exciting time. My recent visit to @jeffpulver's #140conf in San Francisco reinforced just how exciting a time it is. Twitter, the popular micro-blogging site, has quickly dominated the social media space. In a matter of six months, Twitter has doubled its tweets per month to an impressive two billion tweets. That's worth repeating: two billion tweets per month.

At Edutopia, I spend a good amount of my time on Twitter, connecting with a vibrant community of educators. I'm continually impressed and inspired by the education community of Twitter. Many times, I get asked, "What's the ROI of social media?" Jeff Pulver started out the conference with a great definition of the ROI for social media as Return on Innovation and/or Return on Inspiration. Contrary to what some believe, Twitter's not just about referring traffic to your website, increasing sales, or how many followers you have. As Jeff points out, it's so much more. Twitter truly is the one place I rely on for inspirational and innovative resources/educators in education. The relationships I form with the education community are priceless and more and more people are beginning to realize that you can't quantify this.

Despite the amount of time I spend in Twitter everyday, after attending last week's #140conf I realized much of my experience and views of Twitter tended to be solely based on the education community on Twitter. Every day I'm deep in the trenches of Twitter as it relates to education and until now, I haven't taken a breath to discover the innovative things that other industries are doing with Twitter and how those innovations may effect not only our community of educators but the world as we know it.

The Wild West Social Web

Many distinct communities around the world are using Twitter in very impressive ways. Whether it be religion, agriculture, music, social justice, hospitality, or city planning/public safety, Twitter has opened doors for communication and personalization that previously was just not there. In a world being dominated by sales and media, Twitter has made it apparent that relationships and engagement is key to success in this continually evolving Social Web.

@jefffowle, a cattle rancher, and @raylindairy, a dairy farmer, use Twitter to collaborate with other farmers and customers across the country during their regularly scheduled #agchat and #foodchat.

Virgin America revealed how their two person social media team monitors Twitter so closely that they not only ensure satisfaction of their customers but they've differentiated themselves from their competition by doing so. Some stories worth sharing: By combing tweets, Virgin noticed that an in-flight customer hadn't received their sandwich yet. Virgin's team was able to respond by quickly sending a message to the on-flight staff. The staff was able to get the sandwich to the customer and at the same time Virgin was able to demonstrate their fast response time publicly via Twitter. They've even gone as far as helping customer's celebrate notable milestones while in flight. A customer tweeted casually that they just received their PhD. By simply retweeting their comment and asking people on board to buy the customer champagne, it not only made that customer's day, it showed that a brand truly cared and collaborated with other in-flight customers to help her celebrate!

Twitter's also revolutionizing how telecommunication giants are doing customer service. By embracing the power of crowdsourcing through Twitter, they're able to reduce customer service inquiries and increase efficiencies. Hip-hop artists are also jumping on the Twitter bandwagon and engaging with their fan base with an authentic voice and creative tactics. Hip-hop artist, @quincy started migrating his fans from MySpace and managed to cultivate an engaged base of over 58,000 followers by using Ustream, YouTube, and engaging with fans daily.

Although these communities are all using Twitter in different ways, why they are successful with Twitter ultimately has to do with the same concept: engagement and authenticity. Jeff Pulver also reinforced a very powerful point about Twitter: Twitter is still the only platform where a random person can hear your voice and amplify it by retweeting it.

How Can We Make the Case for Social Media in the Classroom?

Every minute I listened to the many speakers at #140conf, I got more and more inspired but my excitement was bittersweet. My mind kept drifting to the state of our schools. Most of our schools are still using filters to block all social networking sites. Although we're living in an incredibly exciting time, we can't even demonstrate it or get our students involved with it. Many would argue that the purpose of education is to create twenty-first century learners and responsible, active community citizens. I ask you, how can we do this without exposing our youth to the tools that are revolutionizing the web and the world as we know it?

We're purposely creating a disconnect with our youth and setting them up to fail in the digital space by simply hiding social media sites because we're too afraid of misuse. Whether we like it or not, our students are already using social media sites. Seventy-three percent of American teens now use social networking websites, according to new study by Pew Internet on Social Media and Young Adults. Are we going to stand aside and watch them engage in social media with their phones and at home? What about teaching our youth about digital footprints, citizenship, and etiquette in this quickly evolving space? As educators, I can't imagine a more important role to take on. The #140conf reminded me that we all have the ability to inspire, it's just a shame that we can't guide our future generation with the tools to do so.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. Have you tried to make the case for allowing social media sites in your school? Are you looking for resources to create policies/procedures to help navigate this new space? Please use the comments below to share. I'll be sharing some of the best resources I've found as well.

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Combat plagiarism

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Try using plagiarism checker for students that comes free of cost and provides reliable results. It will certainly help to deal with the plagiarizers.

Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

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Bud,

As you stated, internet filters in schools should never be intended as a classroom management tool. As you've seen, youth tend to get around these filters and it not only sets a tone that we don't trust them, it can deprive them of valuable resources online.

I really liked your letter in your recent blog post about how you talk to and justify your internet filtering policy (http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2009/10/03/would-you-please-block/). Very concise and to the point.

I think the more people like yourself that are sharing resources and talking points on how to approach internet filters in schools, the more we can hopefully start teaching our youth some important digital citizenship skills and as you said have a more thoughtful conversation about it.

Thanks again for your comment,
Elana

[quote]Elana -

 As a high school language arts teacher who is now an instructional technology coordinator, I've seen first hand the mindset that a poor filtering solution can create. But, I'm pleased to say, I've also worked through what it means to fiddle with the filter in a way that changes the nature of the conversation about filtering and social media.

So long as our filters are poorly constructed attempts at behavior management, they will fail us. But, if we recognize that the real filters we should be cultivating are those of our students and staff, the crap detectors that we hope all leave our schools with, then we can make change.  

Perhaps you'd find some of our work interesting:

http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2009/10/03/would-you-please-block/ http:/... hope that, in talking about what filters do, we can have a more thoughtful conversation about these issues. [/quote]

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I think there's an interesting contradiction here in classroom use of technology--do we use technology because students have delved into social media and we are following them there, or do we use technology because of its proven merit in the classroom? Or is it something of both, where we develop useful classroom technology so that we can follow students into the world of new media?

In response to media in the modern classroom, I think my professor Dr. Gideon Burton at BYU is a great example of a digital classroom pioneer. I am currently enrolled in a digital civilization class of his that uses a canvas classroom (http://canvas.instructure.com/courses/21125) and I've previously used facebook effectively for his course (see a discussion of this on Kelly Walsh's blog http://www.emergingedtech.com/2010/08/facebook-as-an-instructional-techn...).

Elana -  As a high school

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Elana -

 As a high school language arts teacher who is now an instructional technology coordinator, I've seen first hand the mindset that a poor filtering solution can create. But, I'm pleased to say, I've also worked through what it means to fiddle with the filter in a way that changes the nature of the conversation about filtering and social media.

So long as our filters are poorly constructed attempts at behavior management, they will fail us. But, if we recognize that the real filters we should be cultivating are those of our students and staff, the crap detectors that we hope all leave our schools with, then we can make change.  

Perhaps you'd find some of our work interesting:

http://budtheteacher.com/blog/2009/10/03/would-you-please-block/

 http://blogs.stvrain.k12.co.us/internetstats/ 

We hope that, in talking about what filters do, we can have a more thoughtful conversation about these issues. 

Christopher - New

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Christopher - New technologies have always been balked at in education. It mainly means we need to be teaching students safe use of these powerful, valuable learning tools just like we do with bus safety, fire safety, power saw safety in shop class, trampoline or balance beam safety in PE. Just because you don't understand value in a certain tool, doesn't mean someone else hasn't. Examples over the years:

Students today can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems. They depend on their slates which are more expensive. What will they do when their slate is dropped and it breaks? They will be unable to write!”
Teachers Conference, 1703

Students today depend upon paper too much. They don’t know how to write on slate without chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?”
Principal’s Association, 1815

Students today depend too much upon ink. They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil. Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”
National Association of Teachers, 1907

Students today depend upon store-bought ink. They don’t know how to make their own. When they run out of ink they will be unable to write words of ciphers until their next trip to the settlement. This is a sad commentary on modern education.”
The Rural American Teacher, 1929

Students today depend upon these expensive fountain pens. They can no longer write with a straight pen and nib (not to mention sharpening their own quills). We parents must not allow them to wallow in such luxury to the detriment of learning how to cope in the real business world, which is not so extravagant.”
PTA Gazette, 1941

Ball point pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away. The American virtues of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Business and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.”
Federal Teacher, 1950

Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Very powerful

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Very powerful comment and I completely agree. My hope is that 10 years most schools will realize the power of social media and bring down their filters but time will tell..

Quote:

Making the case for the use of social media is difficult. So much emphasis and fear are based on what can go wrong or how it might be misused. Rather than running away from social media we need to embrace it and teach students how to use it responsibly. Stop making assumptions that student know how to use technology.

Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Thanks for sharing!

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Hi Terry -

As you've illustrated, trying to convince people to unblock filters that do not use social media can be an impossible/frustrating task. Many people have very heated opinions about social media in schools and I find it equally interesting that their opinion almost always stems from their own experience (or lack thereof) of social media.

It'll take a bit to get everyone on the same page but I truly applaud your efforts. If you haven't checked out these resources on our site, they may be helpful:

:: Guest Blog: Making the Case for Social Media in Education

:: Freedom of Information: How a Wisconsin School District Ditched Internet Filters

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Elana,

I tried to make this case for the past few years to no avail. First, the admins and the tech people do not use social media and have basically already formulated an opinion that it is more harmful than good, therefore it needs to be blocked. This is upheld by the school board, who also does not use social media, although more are using Facebook with their families. And most of my teacher colleagues were not using much technology, so it was hard to get a grassroots effort underway. I agree with what you're saying and think the first step is to, at the every least, provide every teacher with an unfiltered computer so that they can use twitter, for example. I went to Washington DC with my edtech doctoral cadre last April, sat in meetings at the Dept of Education with Jim Shelton, Hal Plotkin, and Karen Cator and expressed this very thought. There was no impact that I could tell, which was extremely frustrating (and as you know the Dept of Ed has a twitter account). We made the argument that if Washington really expects to see innovation across the US, then they must get the message out about this school blocking dilemma. Ok fast forward - I have left the elementary classroom where for years I immersed kids in technology and Internet projects, and now am in a university as a teacher education professor. From this new vantage point, I hope to show how valuable social media and Internet projects can be to these people on the path to becoming teachers.

facilitating our district innovation lab, all ages learning per passion

cool. :)

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cool. :)

Technology / Social Web Strategist

Totally agree!

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We've seen kids find their passion by utilizing the new tools, the rich content resources, and by collaborating with others. Any time you help a young person find their life's passion, it is HUGE. It doesn't get any better than that. We agree with you completely.

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the web is allowing so much more than that. everyone can now access any teacher (tutor - live person - not a game or app or program.) twitter is one tech tool that can be a portal to a specific actual person - that can become an individual expert tutor for a specific kid - per their passion. that's huge.

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Karl - this is all really cool.. but if that's all there was to the web - it would be just that - really cool. not knocking it in the least.. i absolutely love it.

however... the web is allowing so much more than that. everyone can now access any teacher (tutor - live person - not a game or app or program.) twitter is one tech tool that can be a portal to a specific actual person - that can become an individual expert tutor for a specific kid - per their passion. that's huge.

facilitating our district innovation lab, all ages learning per passion

this is all really cool.. but

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Karl - this is all really cool.. but if that's all there was to the web - it would be just that - really cool. not knocking it in the least.. i absolutely love it.

however... the web is allowing so much more than that. everyone can now access any teacher (tutor - live person - not a game or app or program.) twitter is one tech tool that can be a portal to a specific actual person - that can become an individual expert tutor for a specific kid - per their passion. that's huge.

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