Guest Author – Andrew Doyle
There is lots to be said about social media and its uses, advantages and vices. I myself have recently been added to the addicted to twitter list. I have been on facebook for years with varying levels of interest and I engage in the ‘always connected’ lifestyle without a second thought to it. When talking to colleagues about simple things such as email I hear about how they don’t check their emails once they leave school (or after a designated time). I cannot fathom this idea and it is not because I feel I would miss something, but rather this is what life has always been like for me. I can remember getting my first hotmail account and using MSN messenger to talk to friends that were two blocks away. I don’t feel like I lacked social encounters or made myself a shut in. This was life and for our students their lives are becoming drastically more like this each day. Rather than argue the issues this may or may not cause our society we must embrace this reality of this new social life and use it to teach students ALL the skills necessary for a world we do not know.
Over the past month I have been able to learn about and share amazing new resources, and ideas all through 140 characters (or less), #hashtags and RT’s. That’s re-tweet for those unfamiliar, as I was when I began. This blog from a teacher in Red Deer discusses the use of Social Media in a high school math class. The teacher had created an account, and a facebook group for math students and soon had over 100 members. He gives his students questions or tasks and allows them the option of choosing to answer through facebook or the “traditional” way. Of the 92 responses, all but 5 answered through the facebook group. This was not because it was easier on the computer, but simply this is how they engage in their thinking process – how they are able to express their ideas.
Teachers and all professionals must be cognizant of their expanding roles and the time they are available for those they are working with. However, as the above teacher noted when he was unable to answer questions through the social media site, other students started answering questions and created discussions on all topics. This is a benefit that student email does not have.
We must also be wary of the uses of social media within the school. Social media should be used as a tool of collaboration, debate and at times disagreement. It is important to teach students to use #socialmedia-socially. Digital citizenship is a term that is often thrown out during awareness weeks and after tragic events. It is important that we teach digital citizenship as we would global citizenship. The right to vote goes hand in hand with the right to access and share information, but the responsibility is to participate in both with respect and an informed mind. Stephen Colbert phrased it correctly when he termed the word #truthiness. Almost anyone can create information, but it takes a digital citizen to analyze, critique and produce knowledge.
I believe that social media will soon be a consistent feature in the classroom of the 21st century. The beauty of social media is that it does not conform to a particular use and is always evolving. This in turn will help educators evolve with new ways to engage.
Bio – I am a first year teacher with Rockyview Schools at AE Bowers teaching grade 3. I graduated from the University of Lethbridge and have a keen interest in engaging students with technology.