To put it simply, education is really complex. And complex problems require innovative solutions. Ollie Bray, Deputy Head Vice Principal at Grantown Grammar School.
According to Bray, young people are not the same as they used to be. One of the reasons is they now have an unlimited access to information via the Internet. And they like to communicate via technology. A recent study showed that 25% of young people surveyed said they would rather stay at home than go on vacation without their mobile devices. And therein lies a problem.
But Bray and his colleague Cliff Dennett agree that “The solution is in the problem.” Teachers aren’t great at talking to students about their online experiences and communication, but they need to be encouraged to take risks in the classroom, to think not about the boundaries, but the opportunities for using social media and technology in their lessons. Bray recommends social media use in the classroom for the following eight reasons:
1. Cultural Relevance – Children like using technology. If teachers are able to frame learning in something culturally relevant to children, the students are more likely to buy into it. For example, basing rich scenarios for children based on video games. We should capitalize on this cultural relevance.
2. Real Time Data – Live video and web conferencing is powerful in schools because it can’t be rewound. Children respect that. Twitter can also be used to bring in real-time information, using a hashtag, to find out what is going on in your country or in an election.
3. Collaboration – Through sites like Google+, multiple people can contribute to a document at the same time, in addition to receiving formative feedback in real time. It also helps students to develop their writing skills. Through Skype in the classroom, educators can search for colleagues all over the world doing the same lessons and projects and connect with them. This allows for joint professional development and joint citizen activities.
4. Communication – Saltash Community School in the United Kingdom uses social media to inform the community of what’s going on. Their integrated use of Facebook and Twitter provide different pathways for different people to arrive at the same content. There is a YouTube channel which showcases examples of students’ work, and they also have a webcam for their farm, where viewers can go see things like pigs being born or feeding. The webcam is also available in classrooms, so parents can see what’s going on in the science lab.
5. Data Collection – Survey Monkey is ideal for data collection because it’s free for up to 100 questions. There is also the option of conducting opinion polls on Facebook because that’s where the people are. The richness of data is what’s important, not where it’s collected.
The internet is only as good as the search you conduct and the information available online. That’s why another valuable resource for data collection is Google alerts. A school’s name can be put into speech bubbles, and you can be alerted via email and your RSS feed as soon as someone publishes something with that school’s name. That can serve as an early-warning system, not always about negative feedback, but for children who may be interviewed by local media and asked what school they attend. The school would otherwise have no way of rewarding their students’ achievements. With this technology, relationships can be built with the children.
6. Audience – T Internet can be used, not only to post to the Internet, but to publish audio and video; Drummond Community High School has an animation club that they use as an enrichment program. They post students’ animations on YouTube and family and friends can view it at their leisure. At one time, the head teacher received an email from the father of one of the students saying thanks for publishing that work online. The father said he felt more in touch with his daughter’s education than ever before, as he is in the armed forces and had been in Afghanistan for the past couple years. Another example is one school introducing time zones by allowing students to video conference with another school in Australia.
7. Professional Development – Various social networking sites allow for things like the sole geography teacher at one school to interact with geography teachers around the world to learn from them and pick up resources. Ollie believes the only way to improve the teaching process is for teachers to watch other teachers.
And the final reason why social media should be integrated with technology…
8. It’s not going away – We often look at the negativity and downsides of using social media in the classroom, but it’s imperative for children to learn about its uses and the privacy settings regarding social media. Describing it and showing screenshots doesn’t have nearly as lasting an impact. If they possess very powerful computers in their pockets but aren’t allowed to pick them up, their full potential will be harder to achieve.
Ollie’s catchphrase is, “Good teachers use good tools.”
Photo via OnlineUniversities.com
Delesia Watson is in her first year of graduate school at New York University, studying Public Relations and Corporate Communication. Delesia believes social media has largely impacted the way people all over the world communicate, and when used properly, can contribute to building sustaining relationships and a global society. Delesia loves a good read, pageantry, traveling and bargain shopping. You can catch her online at @deleesh and on her blog.