The fourth component of emerging issues in schools is social media. It’s easy for technology directors to block all social media. Yet, it is more difficult to apply social media in the classroom. That means that students can blog, work on wikis, and use social media web sites for educational purposes. There’s every reason to use social media for learning, school communication, and community service.
Blogs can be used for writing assignments and journals. Clearly students must learn what’s appropriate for the public Internet, but it’s still easier to block it than to teach it.
Microblogging can be used for quick communication among class members. Teachers can use such application sites to solicit feedback and questions during class, yet we’ve banned personal technologies in schools. It all goes together.
Students can use wikis for community course study guides and book studies, but it’s still easier to block it than to teach it.
Photo sharing sites allow students to collect or share their own photos for a myriad of ideas, such as biology, astronomy, history, architecture, and art, to name just a few. Yet, it’s still easier to block it than to teach it.
Educational technologists need to help schools find the safe path through rather than restricting it. It is our role to help teachers and students, rather than creating barriers to learning.
Like any other technology application, the use of social media in schools begins with a solid curriculum plan that has clear objectives and modes of evaluation. This with a test implementation, followed by formative evaluation that leads to full implementation is a good first step. Distributed implementation across the school’s curriculum makes social media an important cog in learning and leading.
I couldn’t agree with you more. As a proponent of Web 2.0 technologies for years (and a blogger since 2003), I’ve witnessed both the value and the frustration of working within the confines of IT and accepted academic norms. Even when there are willing instructors, often administrators are the roadblock, and if administrators are willing, then IT blocks access. I was doing a summer workshop on Blogs and Wikis for K-12 classroom instructors that was set up by their principal. When I got to the school, I was faced with a block on social network sites by IT that took the principal and several central administrators hours to unravel. Fortunately I had my wireless laptop with me, and was able to hook that to the LCD to start the workshop, but the feedback from the instructors was ‘great…we love the idea, see the value, it’s easy to do but if it’s this difficult to implement in a workshop for us, however will we be able to implement this in our classrooms? ‘
Good point. The workshops for instructors were approved, but somehow no one noted the implications of that approval. Consequently, instructors feel that looking outside of the norm will only lead to frustration. I value the various communication tools that Web 2.0 offers, and as director of the program, I bring many of them into our classes, but even I have been stonewalled by IT concerned about the security of the network when these tools are a part of the educational plan.
Still I use them quite liberally and have for years with no discernable issues. I also run a community technology center that uses a blog for communication (http://actcstudent.blogspot.com) and utilizes Google Docs to share online registration data and class rosters with staff. The ability to share documents in real time has been a strong component of running a program several miles away from my physical office. For me it was a wonderful solution, but it did require a leap of faith from those charged with the security of our tech system.
Still, the real need lies in convincing those in IT and Admin of the uses of Social Networks in schools. As a school board member, I remember having to convince people that typewriters were not an effective tool for teaching keyboarding. And later, that communication via email was safe enough to implement into our IT system. The problem with technology is that it is forever in a state of change, and change is always difficult.
Our students use Social Networking with abandon. I’ve done workshops for students on recognizing the dangers of what is on their Facebook page, and how it can limit their opportunities for higher academics and careers. To a student, they tell me that no one can read their pages but their friends. I then pull up their page on the projector, and their reaction is always “how did you do that?’ I tell them I’m not a magician, but I do know that they share too much access to their information. I discuss the issues of identity theft. It’s a sobering workshop, and they see immediately the need to limit access to their private lives.
So perhaps the key is to acknowledge the potential misuse and teach the value of networking in this context.