Thursday, April 11, 2013

Social Media: Empowering students or waste of time?

     Social Media doesn't have educational value.  Social Media doesn't belong in schools.  Social Media is a preemptive strike by aliens to weaken our society & destroy the minds of our children.

     Hmmmmmm...maybe I exaggerated on the last one there, but sadly the first two are often still accepted statements by many in education.  Social Media is seen as distracting, a waste of time, something to do with friends, & a pursuit of the irresponsible.

   If you know someone who agrees with that then I need you to find two large pots or pans (cymbals will also do for you music majors) walk up behind them and bang them together repeatedly.  It's time for the FUDDY DUDDIES to wake up & realize the power of social media, the impact it can have on education, & the importance of teaching students how to leverage it for their benefit.  If we refuse to teach them how to use it, they will teach each other...and the power of how to use it to succeed will probably not be a topic they choose to discuss.  

     I feel like I'm on my soapbox here, but the main reason educators are against social media is they don't understand it.  They use excuses like, well it can't be controlled, kids use it to bully each other, it's dangerous.  The solution is just to block it because then it's not our problem.  As long as kids are misusing it on their own time what do we care (as long as their test scores are okay).  It is always easier to hit the block button than address the real problem.  While we are at it we should probably ban pencils because I have seen kids stab each other with them, they are very sharp & pointy.  Kids have also used them to write mean notes & dirty words in textbooks.  What? We are not going to do that, but why?  They are useful you say...and most kids use them responsibly...hmmmm...I wonder if it's because from an early age we have expectations as to how they use pencils.  Even though some discipline issues have to be dealt with most students understand how to appropriately use a pencil.

     Do you see where I am going.  What if from an early age we taught kids how to use social media or similar tools appropriately.  Along with those responsible skills we taught the effective educational uses of social media and how it paints a picture of who they are as a digital citizen.  Of course that would mean educating teachers to the importance of their own digital footprint & that facebook is more than just growing crops on their farms.  I realize that for the most part I am blogging to the choir here, but if I can give you some motivation to keep on doing what you do than it is worthwhile.  Those of you fighting to use social media to empower your students are not crazy.  Keep the fight because social media is not going away and to succeed professionally it will be important that our students understand how to use it to shape their digital lives & connect with others.  Just today this example/story was emailed to me by a teacher:

     "It's funny because I just had a picture I tweeted of our students in Budapest retweeted several times because of the hash tag I added - #hungary. I started hashtagging (is that a verb?) each country while I was tweeting (several parents were following from back home) and a few tweets got picked up by tweeters like @weareczech and @hungariantourism.  Interesting to see how other sources picked up my tweets from there ...kind of like a massive game of connect the dots."

Here is the really cool part...

    "I also then used twitter to complain about united airlines losing my luggage and got a direct message from them about looking into where it might be. (They finally found my luggage today - after 5 days in limbo!)  Some of the (ahem, "older") adults on the trip were talking about how much they hated social media like Instagram and twitter, but then I had eight parents and GRANDparents thank me when we got home for tweeting so they could follow along. Don't knock it until you understand it, right? #IHeartTwitter"

      For years banks & credit card companies have had "preferred customers" based on your credit or the size of your account, but other companies are going to begin issuing (or already have) similar "preferred customer"  status to those who have a larger social media presence.  Not only is social media a new & ever growing job market, but it is the way many companies are starting to service customers in a more effective & prompt way.  If we want our students to succeed (beyond the test) we will find ways to incorporate social media into our schools, classrooms, & curriculum.  It can empower the learner, empower the consumer, and empower the job seeker.

     For those that still think it's a fad, childish, or not worth learning about, get out those pots & pans!!!