Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Students are at the Social Media wheel, but who is teaching them?

     My daughter is now 10 years old and all ready she is excited about driving.  She of course feels she is ready to drive now, but after riding in the Grand Prix cars with her at Disney World I can fully attest she is not!  None the less, the next five to six years will come all to soon for my wife and I, as my hair is already turning gray.  However, when the time comes she will go through the steps of learning how, before we ever let her take off alone behind the wheel. Then it will be even longer before she will be allowed to have any friends in the car with her. After-all, she needs to show us she is responsible and can meet our expectations.

     First she will get her temps & began begging to drive at every possible opportunity (You know like when they want to cut the lawn...until they do).  We will wear out the floorboard pressing the imaginary brake, she will cry a minimum of ten times, and at least three cats will probably lose all nine of their lives in the process.  There will be classroom hours of drivers ed where she will watch videos, read pamphlets, & take those vital practice tests.  Then will come the hours behind the wheel with an instructor (lucky guy has his own brake) who will ride around town, go on the freeway for ten miles, and teach her how to weave through cones while staying on 10 & 2.  Finally she will take a written & a driving test, making sure to stop, look both ways, roll forward, stop, look both ways again, wait three seconds, slowly turn the corner, and accelerate gently all while staying at 10 & 2 and checking all her mirrors (As I am sure all of you do at every stop sign).  Then after a little scribbling, a couple humphs, maybe a cough or too, the instructor will hopefully pass least after the second test.  Off to the BMV to take a photo she will most certainly hate and then she can drive between the hours of 6 am to 12 am with no more than one non-family member in the car (State rules...Dad's rules will be stricter).

     Now let's see to start using social media she will have to turn thirteen.  Hmmmm, really that's it huh...well at least the schools are educating kids as to the appropriate use of social media...what's that...they're not...okay that's a downer...well I guess it is up to the knowledgeable, techy & responsible parents that every student has...and now you see the problem.

     If we are not teaching students how to use social media, who are they learning from?  Perhaps a few from parents who are knowledgeable, techy, & responsible (quite the hat-trick), but most are simply learning from each other.  Would we let 15 year olds teach each other how to drive?  Shoot, they will figure it out, don't worry, what's the worse that could happen?  Do I have you attention?

     Now let's amplify the fact that whether you like it or not...accept it or not, social media is becoming the way we are conducting our lives.  Businesses are pouring millions (some billions) into social media.  Entire new divisions (meaning lots of new jobs) are being created to handle the social media needs of companies.  Yet too many in education are ignoring it because, "it is a waste of time" or though it is not said, let's be honest, social media questions are not showing up on any state tests.  Haydn Shaughnessy, a contributor to , said this in January of 2012;
"By this time next year we’ll all be looking back at 2012 and saying wow, the explosion of social media inside the workplace has been one of the most amazing disruptors I’ve seen in business."
He hit it on the money and schools/educators need to wake up.  Let's do a quick Google search for fun.  I searched the following terms/phrases on Google and got the following number of results.

  • Social Media - 4.5 Billion
  • Social Media Marketing in business - 1 Billion+
  • Common Core - 178 Million
  • math reading science social studies - 142 Million
  • cursive writing - 3.4 million

You want data?  There is some data for you.  The purpose of schools should be to prepare students in the best way possible to succeed post-schooling.  Am I way out of line to think that preparing students to harness the power of social media, to promote themselves as both a learner & worker in the digital age, would fall short of what they need to succeed?

    Let me see your skepticism and raise you some common sense.  There is no need (in fact I think it would be impossible) to teach the power of social media in a vacuum.  It is a tool, NOT a subject!  No one who understands this is advocating a social media class.  We need to be clear this is not something to displace what is already being taught.  Social Media, if embraced by educators, can be utilized to better connect current academic content to real authentic experiences in our digital world.  We simply have to get teachers over the hump of thinking of it as a nuisance and social waste of time, and instead visualizing it as a powerful academic tool.

     Universities take note, you should be promoting & incorporating this in your preparation of our future teachers.  If this is taught as an educational philosophy and powerful tool than lesson plans will naturally take a step forward.  Social Media in the classroom will be second nature.  Then why are not all Educational departments equipping future teachers with the needed skills to seamlessly blend social media with academic content?  My theory can be summed up in one word...BLOCKED!

     Stop blocking because it is the easy solution (Could say something about gun-control here, but we will keep this non-political).  Educators need to educate & EXPECT students to use social media appropriately and responsibly.  After-all, don't we often say, "Students will rise to your expectations".  If you don't believe that, than hunker down, keep your head low, and good luck getting your 30 to 35 years in, but maybe education isn't the career for you.