Saturday, September 8, 2012

Social Media in the Classroom

I bet Facebook is banned at your school. However, did you know that Facebook was originally designed for university students and was then opened to schools? Ironic, if you think that a tool used by so many people, a tool that is so integrated in so many people's lives in and outside the workplace, at tool that is used extensively by businesses, a tool developed for students to connect, is the tool that we ban our students from using. 

Without question, social media has impacted our world in ways that we could never have anticipated. It has changed the way news spread, the way companies do their marketing, the way friends communicate and they way we learn. Web 2.0 and the new generation of internet users are active contributors, sharing and collaborating over thousands of miles on projects and learning. Within education too, social media has begun to make an impact. Teachers from all over the world collaborate on a daily basis for professional development purposes. They help their students become part of a global classroom, they give their students opportunities to communicate with real audiences and they show students the value of sharing, contributing and collaborating. As a result, without question, the educational literature available on the subject of social media in education is overwhelmingly positive. In addition, OFSTED, the Office for Standards in Education (equivalent to ERO in New Zealand) have even commented on the positive effects of social media in schools.

Perhaps the biggest limitation towards the successful incorporation of social media in schools, is professional development. There is often a major generation gap between policy makers, senior managers, teachers and students. Students understand the content driven environment that requires active contribution rather than passive observation, where many ‘adults’ have been left behind to the point of not even understanding the purpose of these tools. The risk however, of schools that fail to incorporate this technology, is that teachers and schools may appear to become out of date as they will not be preparing students to write for the new types of media that is being used for publishing and communication.

Social media is a fantastic tool, its value clearly demonstrated by teachers, rather than governments who have instigated the inclusion in their classroom and schools. The tool will however only be as effective as the teacher, as in effect, social media is about communication. Teachers who are not able to communicate clearly using this medium, or who are not able to teach their students to communicate clearly using this medium, are ultimately obsolete in the 21st century classroom. Whether educators choose to embrace social media or not, our students are living and will increasingly live in a 21st century world. It is after all, our job to prepare our students. 

Are you using social media in your classroom? How effectively?

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