Perhaps the title of this post is bold, but I strongly believe in the use of social media and social networking (including, but not limited to, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Scoop.it etc.) in the classroom to promote learning. I recognize that social media and social networking are nothing more than another tool in a pool of options available to us as teachers. However, social media and social networking allow teachers to provide students with a learning experience that is not possible within the confines of their own classroom walls.
The following is a fantastic video that outlines why the use of technology and the integration of social networking belongs in the classroom (xplanevisualthinking, 2009). I tried to find a more recent video, but I was unsuccessful; please keep in mind that these statistics are from 2009, imagine what they are now in 2013!
There are many arguments for and against the use of social media in the classroom. Lederer (2012) states that the pros of social media in the classroom include fostering collaboration and discussion, creating meaningful dialogue to share ideas, boosting student interaction and preparing students for successful employment. Alternatively she discusses how social media can be a distraction, increase opportunities for cyber bullying and discourage face-to-face communication. Although I respect her arguments against social media, I do not fully agree with them.
Digital Citizenship is one of the competencies outlined by Alberta Education in the “Framework for Student Learning: Competencies for Engaged Thinkers and Ethical Citizens with an Entrepreneurial Spirit” (Alberta Education, 2011). A goal of the digital citizenship competency is to “help [students] find information, communicate with others, solve problems and make decisions” (Alberta Education, 2011). The point of integrating social media into the classroom is to promote student understanding of the benefit of it’s use. Social media can be used to teach students about exercising integrity while interacting with others online. If we are to genuinely teach our students about digital citizenship, we must use technology to do so. Discussing the online world that exists, and that our students are already involved in, without allowing them to engage in real world applications does not promote learning.
Bullying has been a reality in our schools for years and with the influx of technology use, cyber bullying is on the rise and becoming a more pertinent issue. Teaching our students about their digital footprint and how to interact with individuals online in a professional manner will help to decrease cyber bullying. Many students don’t understand that what they do online is tracked throughout their life and follows them into their adult life; this is not like a nasty note passed around a classroom that can easily be destroyed. If we discuss, with students, the implications of their actions this will help to deter students from making poor choices. The key to success is early education, we cannot begin this in high school, but need to begin in elementary. If we start educating our students at younger ages, they will grow up with an understanding of the intricacies of the Internet and in the older grades we can continue the discussion of digital citizenship, but with a focus on their future and not on cleaning up, or burying, their past.
To discuss Lederer’s (2012) argument pertaining to the affect social media has on face-to-face communication, I believe that it could actually increase face-to-face interaction if this is done properly. Sawmiller (2010) discusses the way blogging, a form of social media, gives silent students a voice. I believe that as students engage with one another online, they will become more comfortable in their classroom environment and this will transfer directly into the face-to-face classroom. It is also important that the teacher engages students in conversations in the classroom, not just online. Combining these forms of interaction will increase the positive learning community in the classroom and promote student learning. As with anything there are drawbacks, however with careful planning and implementation negatives can be reduced to provide students with a fantastic opportunity to learn.
Before exposing your students to social media, I recommend you get involved yourself, so that you can model exceptional practice for your students. I have personally had a fantastic experience with Twitter since becoming active in PSI. Below is a selection from a previous post, “Twitter: A Social Media Platform that Promotes Collaboration & Learning by Teachers & Students”:
“What I didn’t see coming, was the pure enjoyment and excitement I would find in reading other professionals posts, developing my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and composing my own relevant educational tweets. I couldn’t believe the vast number of resources that are available on Twitter; it is absolutely wonderful! In the past six weeks I have enjoyed and learned a lot through this simple social media platform and made connections with some extremely interesting professionals. The importance of collaboration is one of the key lessons I have taken away thus far from my Education degree; there are few ways easier to collaborate with professionals worldwide, than through Twitter.”
There are several chats that are available on Twitter. One that I have found particularly interesting, for students, is #scistuchat. In this chat, experts in their respected fields are invited to join in on themed discussions with students. Providing students the opportunity to interact with professionals provides students with an authentic learning experience (Hsu and Ching 2012). Hsu and Ching (2012) go on to discuss how students were inspired by the work of others they discovered on Twitter because they were able to make connections to their own work and interests. With technology in the classroom, the learning opportunities are endless.
What I have learned from my personal experiences with Twitter is directly transferrable to the classroom and our students. Before you resist the use of social media in the classroom, take the time to learn it yourself and you will see the wonderful learning tool it can be for you and your students.
A late addition …
I’ve just had the opportunity to be a part of my very first Google Hangout. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first signed in, nor was I even sure how to join the hangout. Once I was in, it was definitely a valuable experience. Each of the participants was in a different location; one participant was at a lake, another in the front seat of their car, I was on my bed and our professor at the university. It was really interesting to see how no matter where we were, as long as we had access to Internet we were able to connect with one another using voice, video and chat (if needed).
I can definitely appreciate the benefits Google Hangout brings to learning. We discussed the ability for students in one school to work anywhere in the building that they were most comfortable, or better yet making groups composed of students from two classes in different countries collaborating with one another. This brings communication to a whole new level. It is possible for a teacher to offer extra help via Google Hangout as well. Many students struggle to stay late or come to school early because they are at the liberty of the bus schedule, but with Google Hangout this problem is erased.
As with any technology, there are always drawbacks. Unfortunately, many schools come with weak Internet connections that would not be able to effectively power 30 video chats. In addition, privacy and safety are always a concern. It is possible for a teacher to set up private chats that students need to be invited to in order to keep this experience safe for students.
The wheels in my head are turning and I’m considering how I could make use of this tool, to enrich student learning, in my PSII face-to-face classroom.
Alberta Education. (2011). Framework for student learning: Competencies for engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit. Retrieved on July 8,2013 from http://education.alberta.ca/media/6581166/framework.pdf
Hsu, Y., & Ching, Y. (2012). Mobile Microblogging: Using Twitter and Mobile Devices in an Online Course to Promote Learning in Authentic Contexts. International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 13(4), 211-227.
Lederer, K. (2012). Pros and cons of social media in the classroom. Retrieved on July 10, 2013 from http://ht.ly/8GiRd
Sawmiller, A. (2010). Classroom Blogging: What Is the Role in Science Learning?. Clearing House: A Journal Of Educational Strategies, Issues And Ideas, 83(2),44-48.
xplanevisualthinking. (2009). Did you know 4.0. Retrieved on July 10 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6ILQrUrEWe8