ED4764:The Internet and Education · KSA #07 Student Needs · KSA #09 Instructional Strategies · KSA #10 Technology

Social Networking: It Belongs in the Classroom

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.

References

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

Significant Comments:

http://kayleemelhoff.weebly.com/3/post/2013/07/july-10th-2013.html#comments

http://nordleeblog.weebly.com/1/post/2013/07/social-media-in-the-classroom.html#comments

http://danoryschak.weebly.com/1/post/2013/07/social-media-and-the-classroom.html#comments

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7 thoughts on “Social Networking: It Belongs in the Classroom

  1. Justin,
    I loved reading your post today!! There were a couple of things that really stuck out to me while I was reading your post. The first thing was your comment on the digital citizenship and the competency that it meets. I agree with you because in one area you are able to show the students many different aspects of digital citizenship. How would you introduce this to you students and at what age would you start this in your classroom?
    The other thing that really stuck out to me what your use of Twitter and the benefits that it has. I have seen the connections that you have made and I have also been able to see the benefits of using Twitter in collaboration and learning. It is an amazing tool to find a variety of resources and many people to support you. How would you use this in your Science classes and would this be something that you would introduce at the elementary level or would you wait until high school?

    Thanks for the great read and I hope your having a great summer!!

    Kaylee

    1. Thanks Kaylee!

      I think that I would start introducing digital citizenship with paper blogs. This will allow students to firsthand witness what a blog could look like online. From here they can see the effort it takes to produce an exemplary post and professional comments to others. This would serve to build students excitement about having their own personal online blog and once they have seen the thought it requires, we would move to the online world. I think another effective way to model digital citizenship for students is having them all search one topic, but on different computers and using different search engines. This way they can see firsthand how the Internet remembers what we do and filters its results accordingly. A persons digital footprint is a huge concept for students, of any age, to grasp. The better our students understand the ramifications of their actions online, the better. As Jennifer Deyenberg mentioned in her video, she was blogging with Kindergarden students. The discussion at this level around digital citizenship will be extremely basic, but I believe it is a great idea to build the base earlier rather than later. If we can teach students early on, the focus can be on further building and developing a positive digital footprint in the higher grades, rather than on learning the basics and starting from square one.

      I would introduce a class Twitter account at the elementary level so that the students can see the power of social media and interaction among professionals worldwide. In my science class, I plan on tweeting out my students blogs to those I have connected with on Twitter. However, it will be expected that they are also sending their blog posts out via Twitter. I want them to leave my classroom having developed their own connections that they can collaborate with, teach and learn from. If I am the only one sending out their posts on Twitter, they will miss out on a crucial part of the learning. Twitter is a great medium for students to see the power of social media and their actions. This will further teach them the importance of professional interactions online.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Justin

  2. Hi Justin,

    I enjoyed watching the Did You Know 4.0 video…I think I had seen this years ago but it is always an interesting watch! I love reading all of the interesting facts it displays and wondering what technology and social media will look like in 20 years down the road. It’s almost scary to think. The video stated that cell phones will be the world’s primary connection tool to the internet in 2020, however it is 2013 and I believe we have almost already reached that point, seeing as how the vast majority of cell phone users have smart phones that connect to the internet!

    I liked the point you brought up about how if you are going to expose your students to social media, it is important that you as the teacher get involved as well so that you can model exceptional practice to your students. You can’t teach your students how to use a technology or social media tool without knowing how to use it. Students educating teachers is good at times, but not when students are *always* the experts. I think that the new generation of upcoming teachers will be stronger in this area then teachers whom are close to retirement now, as we have grown up around social media tools and know how to use them in different settings. If I asked some teachers I know who no longer have teenaged children and asked what Pinterest, MySpace, Instagram, etc were, I would bet that many of them would not know what I was talking about!

    I also liked your idea on creating a class twitter account in elementary school so that students can be exposed to this social media tool and understand how to use it in the educational setting. Depending on the grade, would you allow each student in the class to also create their own twitter account to go in part with the class account so that they could independently use twitter for their learning?

    Great post 🙂
    Kristin Raychert

    1. Hi Kristin,

      Well, Social Media sites require it’s members to be 13 in order to sign up. So, if the students are under the age of 13 I would stick with a class Twitter account. After this, like with my high school students in PSIII, they will be signing up for their own Twitter account to promote their own learning and form their own connections to collaborate with.

      My opinions towards ages and blogging are different though. I think that all students of any ages can have a blog and benefit from the learning experience. However, if they are under the age of 13, I would ensure that I have written parental consent for each child and that the parents fully understand it’s uses and benefit to their child’s learning.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Justin

  3. Hello! Your title is not only bold but it is also very correct. I love that you recognize the importance of using social media/technology to push beyond the boundaries of our brick and mortar classroom walls. Thank you also for the many helpful resources that you provided in your post. tlb

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