Social Media: the Path to Educational Change

I am often asked why do I support social media in Education. For the most part, people think that “social media” is facebook. While facebook is an example of one form of social media, it is not something I would consider using in an educational context.  Why? For one reason facebook changes its privacy settings so much I could never catch up as a teacher….However, the strongest reason is that Facebook is about connecting with like-mided people in your “peer group”.

Let’s consider the “peer groups” of the 90’s…..when we used the telephone as our “social media”
I used to spend hours on the telephone when there was no call waiting – there was a busy signal. I would speak to one friend at a time for hours on end.

What if my math teacher had wanted to talk to me on the phone and to try and get me to create a cool new math solution?  I would have slammed down the phone – and told my mother that my math teacher was trying to call me.

To me- facebook represents “the phone” of the past. Let students hang out, chat and connect with peers in their own groups and networks withut having “adult” interference. It is NOT what I mean by integrating social media into education.

Instead- consider social media tools that blend peer groups and focuses on “interests” by offering different kinds of learning situations.

There is more to communication in 2012 than just facebook. Kids today use a wide variety of social media including facebook, texting, twitter to name just a few. They remix, rehash, recreate and remake the information that they see from others, and send it out again.

There is no comparison between the skills that the students are learning as a result of facebook, texting, tweeting and the skills I learned when I talked on the phone. The phone and social media are completely different.

Where education can step in is accepting that all adults need to learn from the youth. The amazing skills that the youth learn by using technology is lost in the average clsssroom. Instead, the students are expected to “leave the mobile devices at the door”.

What can we as adults teach youth about social media? Adults can mentor about digital citizenship and the ability to think critically online. Adults are skepitcal of the web – that skepticism is not apparent in most of the youth using social media. Skepticism encourages adults to take a closer look at a story, image or idea to find out if it is reality.

I am advocating for a transfer of knowledge between the skills that youth have developed using social media and the “skeptical” critical thining skills that adults can contribute.

For education to change- students need to consider adults as peers with experiences and insight while adults need to consider youth with talents and skills that can lead to higher level thinking. Together we can learn how to integrate social media into Education.