Over the past few years, Social Media has become less of an edgy new technology for geeks and more of an important information tool. For example, in our recent spate of bad weather here in Pennsylvania, the “early bird” parents would make sure the others knew about school closures, road closures, and even power outages on Facebook as soon as it happened, helping spread the information before the official email or calls started to come in.
When it comes to the classroom, many teachers and parents are a little nervous about social media. Some worry it is a distraction, or can’t be used for serious learning. Other parents are worried that projects, such as having a student create a Facebook-like page for a historical figure, are encouraging kids to use social media, which they may not fully approve of in their home, or that it is somehow trivialising more traditional academic learning.
Many schools block social media sites, and with access restricted, it’s more difficult to use social media as a learning tool within the classroom. Yet with many kids having smart phones, they can usually get around wifi restrictions to access the same sites independently. Is this restriction helpful to try to keep students focused on task, or merely a nuisance that is largely ineffectual in practice? Are we closing the door after the horse has already left the barn?
Ideally, I think schools should not only teach students about digital citizenship and appropriate use of social media, but help them learn and model good behavior by integrating social media into the learning process where appropriate. For example:
Could you help students facilitate study groups via skype or google hangouts?
Could you have virtual office hours for students to ask questions online, via Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts or Skype?
Could you have students share pictures of projects via Instagram, and set up a classroom page?
A classroom blog might be a way to help students communicate their learning (like a classroom newspaper) to the outside world, and even open their writing to a wider audience.
Some english classrooms in our District use Goodreads to share book recommendations and critiques.
How do you look at social media as a learning tool both inside and outside the classroom? What have you found most valuable? What hasn’t worked out well?
[And on the professional development front, Do you ever participate in Twitter chats? You can find a pretty comprehensive list of chats here: http://cybraryman.com/chats.html]
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