Classroom The Place For Social Media
Jason Falls is considered a leader in the area of social media marketing and communication in general, so when he says the topic should be included in lesson plans, people listen.
Falls was recently interviewed as part of the Verizon Thinkfinity Education Speaker Series and explained that his stance toward social media in the classroom was simple: teachers should learn it, then pass what they learned on to their students.
Unfortunately, it is not the teachers who are hesitant about using social media, it is the school districts themselves. After IT departments, educators are the most anti-social media group around. School officials, school boards specifically, are fearful of what social media might mean for their district because it opens the door to public dissent. Up until now schools have been able to control the information released by limiting what information is made available to the local media. By making social media available within the school, or allowing teachers and students to participate in the use of social media as a part of the curriculum or while on school grounds limits their ability to control the messages which get out. Whether it is photos, statements, comments or opinions, allowing social media to be used on school property can be dangerous.
However, so are power tools. A table saw can be used to cut off someone’s fingers, hand or arm, but we have had shop class available to students for decades now. A five-ton car is also problematic. The engine runs on highly flammable gasoline and a 12 volt battery is filled with acid, either of which can cause serious bodily injury if not well supervised, but many high schools offer some form of automotive repair class.
As a journalist I had the opportunity to mentor several students during the rise of social media. Initially their involvement was limited to a daily blog. This was a great tool, especially as schools began eliminating funding for school newspapers. Because there are no additional costs involved with digital publishing the programs at three local schools (with my help) continued despite the lack of funding. As Facebook and Twitter came online I was able to show the students how they could use these communication tools to promote their blogs, send out immediate news alerts for their school and be a well-equipment media branch of their school system. The mentoring program worked well and two of my student interns (so far) used the social media skills they learned to transition to university where they have successfully studied communication.
Social media is a new technology, a disruptive technology, but unlike some technologies which come and go as interests ebb and flow, this one has changed the world as we know it in ways which we are still trying to understand. It is not going away. It will likely change as time goes by, but the fact that it provides the ability for billions of people to communicate their message around the globe with the touch of a button makes it a nearly indispensable tool people are not likely to forget about any time soon.
Like any tool social media has right uses and wrong uses, and the sooner we educate our children about these uses the more well-equipped they will be to handle them. Shielding our children from this knowledge does nothing to help prepare them for their future as an adult. It only serves to make them lag behind the students who do have this knowledge.
Reflecting on the evolution of communications, Falls said that texting and other forms of social media are not responsible for any decline in students’ writing ability. He noted:
“Kids have become more efficient with their communications, as opposed to less professional with grammar and punctuation. Take those same students and have them write a term paper or an email, and they’re not going to communicate with abbreviated codes and ‘LOLs.’ If they have bad grammar, punctuation and spelling, it has nothing to do with texting; it has to do with their education.”
Falls’ conversation with Katrina Allen, program director of 21st century learning at St. Philip’s Academy, is available for free only in the Verizon Thinkfinity Community section of the Verizon Thinkfinity.org website.
Al Browne, national director and vice president – education and technology, Verizon Foundation, said, “Studies show that only 14 percent of teachers are using social media, compared with 87 percent of students. Rather than allow fear to rule out opportunity, experts like Jason Falls can guide us in the effective use of social media to enrich learning experiences.”
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