Guest Blog: Making the Case for Social Media in Education | Edutopia
Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Guest Blog: Making the Case for Social Media in Education

Steve Johnson

Technology Facilitator, Writer
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

During the time it takes me to write this intro (approx. one minute), 42,000 people will update their Facebook status, 36,000 tweets will be sent, and fifteen hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube.

Undoubtedly, the world as we know it is quickly becoming wired through social media. Our guest blogger, Steve Johnson (@edtechsteve) sheds some light on the current state of social media in schools and even provides some handy talking points to make the case to lift internet filters within schools.

--Betty Ray, Community Manager (@EdutopiaBetty) and Elana Leoni, Social Media Marketing Coordinator (@elanaleoni)

The 3/9/10 #edchat discussion was another example of the most scrolling fun you can have in an hour on the Internet. The topic this time was "How can social media create real change in education?"

Right away, folks got busy reframing the question in more "real" terms:

@blairteach: Question might be better to say, "How IS social media creating real change in education?"

@dtitle: better topic... how will education keep up with social media and not be left in the dust

@unklar: 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

These additions brought to light the fact that we are struggling once again in education to keep up with the pace of a drastically changing society. Outside of schools, social media outlets are THE way that people now communicate, young and old alike (stop sending me chickens in Farmville, Mom!). The fact that we as educators even have to have discussions on whether or not social media is good for schools is sad. Social media just's life.

Despite this, inside the vast majority of our school walls, social media tools are blocked and filtered. Why? In #edchat, the general consensus for the answer to this question revolved around fear - fear of cyberbullying and inappropriate use by students. Many blamed the media for blowing the negative out of proportion. In light of these fears, @benpaddlejones summed up exactly where we need to shift in the coming years:

We need to stop talking cyberbullying and start talking cybercitizenship. Flip to the positive.

He's absolutely correct. Our focus in schools needs to shift towards responsible, positive use of social media. The giant elephant darting about in the shadows needs to be drug into the light. In a world where this type of communication is king amongst our students, we need to stop ignoring and blocking and start embracing and amplifying.

When the filters come down, will there be problems? Will there be inappropriate use by students and staff? Absolutely! As a parent of two young girls, I understand the fear that this type of shift can create. But my response is that I would MUCH rather have these mistakes happen transparently where learning can take place. Every mistake and misstep in social media is a brilliant learning opportunity for all involved. I'd much rather these mistakes occur in the open and with the support structure of caring adults, rather than in the pockets or bedrooms our students are currently making them.

So we have this institution that has permeated society but is still blocked by your school. How can you make the case for the filters to be lifted? Here are some points you might make to bolster your case:

  • It is quickly becoming our duty as educators in the 21st century to guide our students towards responsible use of social media. We teach sex ed, we teach healthy living, we teach about drugs, we teach character ed., and on and on. We do these things each and every day, yet we are ignoring the aspect of our students' lives that is larger than all of these things (and completely interconnected with them as well). It is our duty to our students to start modeling responsible use of social media and encouraging them to follow our lead. We can no longer afford the veil.
  • Social Media use is becoming our new first impression. In June 2009, a Harris Interactive Poll found that 45% of employers researched social networking sites of prospective employees. This was more than double the percentage of employers stating they did this type of research in June 2008 (22%). What this means is simple - when our students start looking for jobs or applying for college, their use of social media is going to be studied. We must act now to ensure our students are portraying their skills and creativity in a positive way so that they can separate themselves from the pack and create opportunities for themselves that they may otherwise be shut out from.
  • Connected, community based learning is important. By blocking social media use, we are depriving our students of a huge opportunity to allow them to learn in connected ways. Society is moving toward a model of shared knowledge building, where people from all over the world can interact, question, reflect, and reshape thinking in meaningful ways. #edchat itself is a perfect example of this very phenomenon. Blocking our students off from this opportunity is a mistake.
  • In five years, the filters will be gone whether you like it or not. The expansion of wifi networks linked directly into smart phones that are being carried by students each and every day is inevitable. They will have an unfiltered access point in their pocket, whether we want them to or not. Wouldn't it make sense to be proactive? Wouldn't it make sense to guide our students towards responsible, productive use?

It is my hope that when the filters come down, transparent use will allow everyone in the school system - students, teachers, parents, admin - to grow and utilize social media in responsible, productive ways. Let's stop holding sparsely attended workshops about internet safety and start modeling the process of unlocking the power these highly relevant tools hold for both ourselves and our students!

Comments (87)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Garant's picture

I think that schools should embrace social netwroking such as facebook instead of trying to block it because i know personally that students find a way around the system and go on them anyway. I believe that in the future unblocking these networks is inevitable so way not just unblock them now and educate the students on how to be responsible on them. Having said this, i think that some people need to think about what they write before they post it because these networks can cause problems. Everything bad that the schools are afriad of happening on these networks are also unavoidable because the students are just going to go home and do it anyway; instead, the school should unblocked these websites and embraced them and then teach the students how to avoid bad situations such as cyberbullying, and even sexual predators.

Matthew Higgins's picture

As a current student, I see that more and more things not only in school but also throughout the World are beginning to be done completely online through programs on various networks and websites. In my own opinion I think that social networking sites are a valuable tool to use, but should be used responsibly not negatively. Students should be allowed to access these networking sites during the school day instead of having blocked access to them; therefore, they would not have to result in secretly accessing them and violating school regualtions. Students also need to keep in mind that they come to school to learn and prepare for their futures, not just to socialize and let the world know what they are doing every minute of the day. I think that some students spend too much time on these sites, which can negatively affect their overall school work ethic, causing them to become distracted and not be able to complete homework or failure to study.

Kamil's picture

Banning social networks from schools is wrong. Even though kids are not allowed to be on websites, such as: facebook, twitter, myspace, youtube, and game websites, in school they will have access to them at home or even on their phones. I personally believe that this should be revoked because it is true that it is limiting our opportunities to view or comment or interact with people around the world. If we would have a class on how to effectively use and operate a social network and or other types of forums, our kids would have a better and more safer life. In doing so this would help prevent cyber bullying and any other type of possible murder or sex offense from the web. We live in a world thats always changing and is in constent motion, technology is increase by 50 years every 5 years pretty soon we will not be able to control it. So, I would rather act now and not block out these sites, but instead help students be more proactive on them. Maybe have them share their opinions on others work or even put their work on the web, so they can be recognized in their community and even the world. People in the world today should not always try to take things away from kids, but to show them a better way on how to do things in such a manner that would be applicable to the situation. Technology can not be stopped, we are in an age of constant media everywhere, and there are some people that try to stop promoting some things, but others encourage it and take advantage of it to help better their lives.

Joseph OBrien's picture

In my opinion I don't think school systems should start to allow students to use social networking media in the class. I completely agree with the comment posted by RStevens that most students would not have enough self-control to focus on their assignments while also using a social networking media. I can personally say that I know people who have and have myself gone home after school and completely neglected homework because of time spent on facebook. Also some students use sites such as facebook and twitter to privately talk with their peers or just get away from school but if the school begins to implement them and monitor them regularly, students might not see facebook and twitter as appealing as they once were.

Napoleon Bonaparte's picture
Napoleon Bonaparte
Emperor from Corsica

Once again, people seem to somehow think a 'fad' or passing craze can somehow implement lasting change on the way the educational system works.

In the Mid-90's, there was a big push for television and Videogames to take a larger role in education. People thought that perhaps the focus of so many Americans' free time could be used for educational purposes.

This was, with a few notable exceptions, completely unsuccessful. How many 'Historical' Movies have we seen that misinform viewers with inaccurate depictions of what happened? Mel Gibson's Braveheart and The Patriot, anyone?

What people failed to grasp in the 90's and even today, is the workings of your average American teenager. For the most part (s)he is a passive person who will only follows his/her peers. Gone are the days of students with an interest in knowledge. I shouldn't place too much blame on our youth, however, because It's actually mostly our educational system's fault.

Rather than construct class learning in an interesting fashion from the get-go, Our system rewards inactivity and 'learning for the test'.

What is 'Learning for the test'? Rather than take an interest in the fascinating aspects of (namely, the most important subject: History)education, stusents only think abut the Bottom line. Only grades matter, not the material. That's the culture we're fostering. Frankly, it scares me when I meet people who are so ignorant of History. I dedicate 70% of my life to studying it, and we've got people who can't name the Presidents or tell what Battle the great Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte first lost at...

A group of young adults raised to believe that learning about the History of civilization and the way our Government works is unimportant, because they're in some empiric Doctor/Engineer/Indian Chief position.

The entire 'Internet generation' has done nothing but stifle the creative energies of our next big group, and Social media is probablt the single largest contributor to the destruction of American education.Social Networking kills creativity, it's that simple.

Europe is far ahead of the United States right now in terms of Education, probably because European children spend their time reading or writing rather than typing away on their Iphones or Facebooking.

So, should social media be banned in schools and on the job? Absolutely. The inactivity and vegatative stasis caused by this new phenomenon has caused a generation connected at the hip to only one influence: The collective.

Between Cyberbullying, Distraction from learning, and Cheating Rings through social media, the risk of Social media is just too great.

Why is this lemming-style behavior on the rise? People only find important what their
friends find important.

The Roman Empire fell because of collectivism among Barbarian tribes, and it just didn't matter to the decadent Romans. The French Empire fell because of collectivism among the European states, and it just didn't matter to the decadent French. The Soviet system collapsed because everyone slacked off, but it just didn't matter to the decadent Communists.

If real education doesn't mastter because students are focused on Social media, isn't our system doomed as well?

The Solution. Ban Social Media in School & work. Eventually the fad will die, and real Education just might return.

Eric Murray's picture

I believe that Facebook and other social networking sites should be banned during school hours; however, once the school day ends,students should be allowed to go on these websites in the library, computer room, etc. I feel this way because of my personal experiences when working on group projects. Instead of using the time wisely, at least one memeber of the group will be on Facebook, talking with other students who are not working. When doing group work, the student on facebook is not only wasting his own time but also wasting the time of the group. I completely agree with RStevens when he talks about his students and says, "...[The students are] networking rather than actually doing their work, it only makes sense to remove the distraction." After school hours though, it is the student's time, so they should be allowed to use it how them want.

Oleh's picture

There is a lot of ups and downs social media website, such as Twitter, Facebook, etc... They can be used for educational purpose, but I don't think that most of people use to learn something new. I believe that social media websites are made for an entertainment purpose and that's the most people are not willing to use it for work or school, just because it would feel the same as at did before, when you just having fun and not taking stuff seriously.
Also In my opinion social media websites should be banned at schools because a student just not going to use it in proper way and it is a huge distraction. Most work places banned all of the social media websites, because it distracts workers from doing their job, and school for students is just as their jobs, you work from 7 to 3, and then you are free for the rest of a day to go on and chat with friends on Twitter or Facebook.
as time runs out, Ill add more later.

Francis DeMuro's picture

I believe the system we currently have in the schools is effective. Although many if not most students no a way around the filtering system the rules still provide a possibility for proper punishment if inappropriate action takes place. Cell phones themselves should be banned from the class room and kept in the lockers. As a student i feel myself responsible enough to handle the cell phone and class work at the same time however I respect the thought behind the rule. As for teaching proper use in class, what can be taught the students don't already have knowledge of? In my opinion (as a student) the students already have sufficient knowledge of web safety. With that being said it is our responsibility to exercis this knowledge. In respects to what we should put on our facebook or what we tweet a full years class is not practical. As for social networking in the work environment I don't believe that they should be banned. If one lets such actions interfere with work progress repeatedly then do they really deserve the job? If you are not responsible enough to control your hobbies then I believe life evaluation is in order.

Genti Shatri's picture

Banning social media in school doesn't have strong support behind the reason of trying to prevent cyberbullying. Students can cyberbully outside of school and these filters don't prevent what happens outside "school walls." Furthermore, students find ways to get around the filters,so either way students will get on social media at school. Most of the time, cyberbullying happens off school boundaries since students spend little time on school computers and on the school internet. School is for learning, but if the student is given free time, then the student should be allowed to go on social media. It's not the same as going to work because the employee is paid to work and shouldn't go on social media. However, if schools put a positive spin on social media by using it in school, like connecting the classroom to learn online, then this could be turned into a very productive situation. There is only a problem when the school trys to control social media that could be taken care of much better than filtering the social media.

Roberto Somers's picture

I agree with Shawn. Most students today completely obliterate or ignore their homework and go straight to their computer to update their facebook status. Social networking sites impede the education of students by making homework their last priority. In other words, social networking sites are the first thing that comes to mind when a student gets home is either sleep or Facebook, not homework. I think they should still keep the filters up because without them, students' attention in school will decrease. Just because the social media is used in a good way once does not mean that it should be allowed in school.

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.