Saturday, August 20, 2011

Social Networking for Good

First of all, I’d like to say that I love Facebook.  I move around a lot, and it has been a great way to keep up with all of my friends and family who live far away.  For many people, sites like Facebook and Twitter are simply places to network socially.  They provide a simple way to share with the world the answer to “What’s on your mind?”.  There are plenty of ways we can change how we use social media for more than simply finding out what your friends are doing.  In the past few years, educators have begun to embrace the collaborative value of these social networking sites with resource sharing, groups, and weekly Twitter “chats” (like #edchat) for all different educational topics.  Instead of using these sites purely for fun and entertainment, teachers are including some very valuable professional development time while they network.  Using social media in the classroom can introduce the importance of this type of collaboration and sharing to students.

Twitter and Facebook are just 2 examples of the social media tools available to teachers (depending on the privacy settings on your school network).  Many teachers use blogging, class wikis, and video conferencing tools like Skype for collaboration.  Some other sites suggested by educators in a recent #edchat conversation are Thinkquest, Ning, and edmodo.  This list could go on and on, but instead of listing specific tools to use, I want to discuss the benefits of using social media at school in the first place.  Please continue the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages to share suggestions and ideas.

One Kaiser study found that most school-age children spend more than 6 hours a day interacting with electronic media.  Much of this time is spent passively consuming, not creating content.  A goal for including social media in the classroom is to improve this time already spent in a digital environment.  Instead of simply taking in information and viewpoints, we want to teach students to analyze what they see and contribute to the conversation by creating well-crafted responses of their own.  Understanding this goal might alleviate some parent and teacher’s valid concerns about using social media in the school setting.

In 21st century education, students shouldn’t be learning about the world, they should be learning as they interact with the world.  The Internet and social media tools have given students unprecedented access to the thoughts and ideas of people across the globe.  Memorizing and repeating facts will no longer be the hallmark of a successful learner.  Digesting these facts and synthesizing them with other knowledge to create something new is the ultimate goal.  Every student should have easy access to the facts, and 21st century teachers will guide their students to filter and analyze these facts so and contribute to the world by sharing new knowledge they have created.  What will this look like in the classroom?  It can be a real-life project where your students collaborate with students from around the planet to solve a problem.  This is an excellent example of authentic learning.

Social media can allow our students to reach out to other learners in new and exciting ways.  Instead of reading about Africa in a textbook, writing a report, and possibly presenting the information to the class, your students have a chance to do something bigger.  Maybe you can help them actually communicate with a student in Africa through Skype, Facebook, or Twitter.  Instead of a report, they could create a video about the country to post to YouTube, reaching a much wider audience than a classroom presentation.  They could even create a wiki to collaborate and share ideas with kids in Africa, a kind of 21st century pen pal program!  There are many other web 2.0 tools that good ways for students to share information.  Check out our  previous posts for some examples.

Service learning is an important aspect of education.  Students need to understand that they are capable of changing their communities and the world.  In my days as a student, service learning included projects like volunteering at a local nursing home, collecting food for the food bank, or being involved in a community clean-up event.  While these types of service projects are still a vital part of education and an important part of being a contributing member of society, students can build on this type of service and use social media to make their voices heard. From kindergarten on, students can create multimedia projects to educate others and make a difference in the world around them.

This is just an overview of the topic, and I am really excited to write more posts with examples of how social media can benefit our students and our communities.  I hope that more of us can take the time and energy to include a component of social media in our classrooms.  If you have ideas, questions, or examples of social media in education, please don’t hesitate to post them on our Gateway Facebook and Twitter pages.  We love to hear what you want us to write about!

~Peggy's Corner - 8/18/2011~


  1. Hi Peggy,
    I agree with your post here, that social networks are about connecting people and that our students need to be collaborating and communicating to create something bigger than themselves. It is wonderful and exciting that our students have access to tools that can allow them to contribute to the world.
    I am very proud of the students at Hawkesdale who have participated in the World Vision 40 hour famine this weekend and created a Facebook page to support each other. The SRC are contributing to those less fortunate than themselves by holding "Rainbow Hair for Foster Care" and an out of uniform day for the Horn of Africa Famine.
    Thanks for this opportunity to share, Peggy.

  2. Thanks for your comment, and sorry I somehow missed it and never replied! I agree that it is very exciting to see students coming together to make the world a better place. They can do so much more than just learn about helping the world...they can really make a difference. Your students' events sound wonderful. Thanks for sharing!


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