Vol.#12: Social Media @Classroom #Revolution

As I continue my work this week at the North Carolina Department of Instruction with the Kenan Fellows program, I have been presented with the following intriguing question:

“As some districts ban the use of social media in and out of classrooms, and others encourage its use, how do you explain such polar viewpoints?”

Welp, in a nutshell: Change is scary.

In fact, fear of the unknown is one of the most basic motivators for human actions. Fear should not, however, be what shapes our education policy. Let us hope that cooler heads eventually prevail, because honestly, while I understand change is hard, I don’t know a single argument against educational use of social media that holds up to real scrutiny.

Students could get hurt.

Yes. Children could also get hurt in a swimming pool or ocean or even several inches of bath water. I don’t know many parents whose strategy is to always avoid water all at all costs. In fact, many still lovingly bathe their children and even enroll them in swimming lessons.

They could cause others to get hurt.

True. They could also stab someone with their pencil or write mean or vulgar things with their ball-point pen. Do we ban them, too?

It creates too many distractions.

I agree that it will call on the educators to shape and supervise lessons in a different way, certainly. With great privilege comes great responsibility, both for students and teachers.

In my discussions with teachers at one-to-one programs, they said students know that they will simply lose the privilege of having the laptop or iPad if they make bad decisions. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth harnessing its power for this next generation’s education, as they will certainly need these 21st century skills.

I suspect a simple lack of understanding the benefits of social media are at the heart of the policies that ban it. For instance, Twitter is by far the best free professional development available to teachers. Yet, it is banned in our schools, therefore I can only assume those in charge are unaware of amazing things like #edchat. They must still believe it to only be a way to find out which celebrity broke up with whom and what some famous tartlet had for breakfast.

Other educators have written about the motivation these technologies provide for many of their students to expand their learning beyond traditional borders. Encouraged by this, I have recently begun using Edmodo during this fall track out. Others have explained how “…just adding more technology into a 19th century classroom doesn’t make it a 21st century learning experience.”  How the technology is used is important, not just that it’s used.

Ultimately, my point is we have to teach the students proper use. The alternative – which some educations systems seem to be opting for – is to bury our heads in the sand and pretend social media doesn’t exist.

And the bottom line is, we are in a media revolution…and whether schools are on board or not, the train is departing the station:

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