Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Social Media Irony in the Classroom

Today I sat in on a presentation by John Finch about using social media in the classroom. I found it extremely interesting how divided school divisions are about the use of tools such as Facebook and Twitter to aid student learning. For example, the Pembina Trails School Division actually have a Facebook and Twitter page and use them to notify students and parents of events going on in the division.

Here is a tweet from today: pembinatrailsSD Due to -45 C windchill there will be NO SCHOOL BUS SERVICE TODAY.

The ironic thing is Pembina Trials, like most school divisions in the province of Manitoba, actually block social networking sites so students do not have access to them at school. So while they obviously recognize the huge benefit these tools have in aiding communication and developing school community, they refuse to give students access to these tools to aid their learning.

Now the question remains, if school divisions do not block social networking sites, how do they approach students' misuse of social media sites such as facebook and twitter during school hours? Although I do not have any concrete answers, I believe that it is up to us as educators to teach students how to use these tools appropriately. This will mean that teachers will have to pull students aside and speak to them about their "online life". It may also mean that we may have to "suspend" computer privileges to certain students that are not adhering to policies set up by the school division regarding the use of social networking sites.

However, the alternative of not using these tools in the classroom is that students WILL use them outside of the classroom with LITTLE guidance, and no sense of ACCOUNTABILITY. Using them in school will set up a structure where social networking can create COMMUNITY, increase COLLABORATION, increase ACCOUNTABILITY, ENGAGE students, and give them more tools to access INFORMATION and increase LEARNING. The benefits of social media in the classroom far outweigh the consequences. The ironic thing is, in a world that is driven by technology, schools are a far cry from being connected.


Dilpreet Minhas said...

I agree with Shaun about school division’s policy for social networking in the schools. School divisions filters should prevent students from accessing sites like Facebook and Twitter from school computers during breaks, this is a reason why educators would mostly avoid them for classroom use. Of course, there are pages on these sites with educational value, so it makes more sense for teachers to be granular by allowing access to appropriate social-networking pages rather than banning them entirely.

Pamela Rathgeber said...

I like what you say about students using technology outside of the classroom with little accountability. If we, as teachers, are not teaching and helping students to use these types of technology correctly and respectfully, then we are setting ourselves up for problems when we do try to implement them into the class.
It almost seems that school divisions have a double standard when it comes to social networking. School divisions are allowed to use these tools in whatever way they see fit, but when it comes to utilizing them in the classroom, forget it. It somewhat relates back to student accountability. Many school divisions don't believe students are accountable or mature enough to utilize these tools in the right way, but shouldn't school divisions be helping students become accountable by allowing them the opportunity to explore social networking at school in the "right" way. By blocking students from social networking, it is sending a message to them that they are not responsible and are not to be trusted - an idea that teachers and school divisions should not be giving to their students.