The words “social media” and “social networking” appear to strike a chord with many people having different interpretations. Out of curiosity, this week I randomly asked ten people what the first thing that came to their minds was when I said those two phrases. Interestingly, Facebook was the overwhelming answer. I understand that this was a non-scientific poll but the outcome was interesting. No wonder when parents hear about teachers using social media and social networking in the classroom, a red flag is raised. Aren’t children in school to learn, not socialize? There is much more to social media and social networking than socializing, there is networking, collaboration, sharing and most importantly, learning. And by the way, Facebook is not the only social media resource.
Personally, I was skeptical about how to authentically integrate social media and social networking in the classroom. Students are there to learn, right? How difficult is it for teachers to capture the attention of the class and engage the students? From personal experience, it can actually be quite difficult. As it turns out, engagement is another important reason to use social networking in the classroom. We know that a student who is engaged with content will learn better. The more we can make schools seem like the world that exists outside of the 8a.m.-to-3:30 p.m. confines, the better (Renfro, 2011). Making the learning experience authentic is one of the keys to success and since social media and social networking are readily available in an classroom which has access to the Internet, why not find ways to integrate it into the daily curriculum.
As stated earlier, quite often parents become skeptical when they hear about teachers who are integrating social media and social networking in their classrooms. Although it is only a government document, the Children’s Internet Protection Act does requires schools … certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures (CIPA, 2003). In addition, the CIPA states that schools will adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:
(a) access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
(b) the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
(c) unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
(d) unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
(e) measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them (CIPA, 2003).
With these measures in place and with an Acceptable Use Policy and social media policies in place, with proper supervision the safety of students should not be an issue.
At a time when many teachers are made wary by reports of predators and bullies online, social media in the classroom is not the most popular proposition (Kessler, 2010). As teachers, we are expected to ensure the safety of our students but to deny then an authentic education is not the answer either. Social media and social networking help to provide students with experiences and skills necessary for the 21st century. Students that use social media from an early age learn to view it as more than just a distraction, and as something that they use to learn and produce content in a setting that they are familiar with and challenged by (Using Social Media, 2012). This in itself speaks volumes. How many employers get frustrated with employees who are distracted by social media and social networking? If social media and social networking are not something distracting to the employee, then they will be more likely to do their job.
Not only will students enter the workforce having experience with social media and social networking but it is suggested that social networking in work can actually boost productivity through business pages, Twitter feeds, and LinkedIn profiles that allow workers to stay in touch with professional networks. As a result, it’s important that schools find ways to integrate social media into and beyond the classroom to build future professional skills (James, 2012).
Integrating social media and social networking in the classroom can take on many different forms. It can range from a simple classroom blog to scavenger hunts using GeoTweets. The possibilities are as endless are the Internet and the creativity of the teacher will allow. The main issue to overcome is the stigma associated with social media and social networking and this can be done through the education. The education of not only the students but also the parents and anyone else closely involved with a child. Education is the key!
Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). (2003). Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved from http://www.fcc.gov/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act
James, R. (2012) Engaging students through social media: real world experience, creativity, future employability. Getting Smart. Retrieved from http://gettingsmart.com/2012/11/engaging-students-through-social-media-real-world-experience-creativity-future-employability/
Kessler, S. (2010). The case for social media in schools. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/09/29/social-media-in-school/
Renfro, A. (2011). 8 social media strategies for your classroom. Get Smart. Retrieved from http://gettingsmart.com/2011/12/developing-a-social-media-strategy-for-your-classroom/
Using Social Media in the Classroom for Real World Learning. (2012). Teach Thought. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/social-media/using-social-media-in-the-classroom-for-real-world-learning/