|So what good is social media?|
|Written by Anne Collier|
|October 28, 2011|
I hadn't seen this figure: Social media use is forbidden in 52% of US classrooms, writes writes Prof. Todd Finley at East Carolina University in Edutopia. He suggests that this prohibition is working about as well as did Britain's royal decree in 1763 that North American colonists were not to settle west of the Appalachians. Professor Finley doesn't stop with why today's containment effort is misguided: "1) facility with social media tools is critical to learning and working in the 21st century; 2) 75% of online adolescents are already social networking outside of school; 3) many students hack through Internet filters during class; and 4) exploration of social media sites is part of the adolescent identity."
More helpfully, he moves on to explain how social media are "transformational" and "perfectly aligned with what American educational philosophers imagined for our schools." As I read the ensuing paragraphs, I came up with this list of what's good about teaching with social media. It fosters…
* Self-expression – Finley writes that "students increasingly compose within social media environments" in their offline lives, so it stands to reason that – to eliminate the gap between formal and informal learning – they should be composing blog posts and wikis (essays, commentaries, etc), producing podcasts and videos, and discussing and debating in virtual worlds and educational social network sites, to mention only a few ways to employ new media, in school!
Before he gets to his "Ten Guidelines for Integrating Social Media Tools and Spaces into the Classroom" at the bottom of his article – which I wish all teachers could read – Finley offers three vignettes illustrating "how social media meshes with teen culture, complicates identity, and subverts authority." The key takeaway I gathered from them is how vital it is to respect students' own use of social media in order to use social media effectively in school (as well as at home, I firmly believe). Finley cites writer, theorist and professor Howard Rheingold as describing young people's explorations in social media as "sacred journeys where teens find themselves."
One important part of that respect is knowing students have a lot of experience with what makes a media tool effective. Finley says he has learned that "I should always encourage best-in-class technologies when permitted" because less-functional ones schools buy because "safe" or because some other feature is aggressively sold can be much more frustrating than engaging for students, which defeats the engaging, unifying, and collaborative purpose school-based social media has.
* "Ten ways schools are using social media effectively" in eSchool News