Friday, July 10, 2015

Anti-Social Media: Are You an Offender?

Here's what got me thinking about this:

Recently, Mike & Mike, a highly popular sports radio show on ESPN, announced on Twitter that it is now a full-fledged member of Snapchat.
While this may not seem like a big deal to most folks, the producers of Mike & Mike felt the need to add the show into the increasingly popular social media format. Already boasting a Facebook page and Twitter accounts, it seemed that Mike and Mike either jump into the foray of Snapchat or leave behind an opportunity to connect with an even greater audience.

It is marketing at its best...and it is free.

Take note of just a few popular companies that have taken to social media to shop their wares and services. Here is a short list:

Ummmmm...ALL OF THEM! (Long report, but an interesting skim.)

There is not really a single entity - from Fortune 500 Companies down to the mom-and-pop stores found on Main Street, USA - that does not utilize social media in some way or another.

And yet when students enter classrooms across the country they are directed to turn their phones off. Or they find that social media sights are blocked by the school security firewalls. Or they are told that Tweeting is a waste of time. Or that SM use will put them in danger of being subjected to awful material.

I get the sentiment. Many teachers feel that if students are browsing SM pages or staying busy "liking" stuff, then they are not paying close attention to highly academic lectures on "Past Participles" or the "Endocrine System."

Therein lies one of the most fundamental problems with education. While lecturing is a necessary part of one's academic experience, too many teachers head straight to the podium and neglect the power and benefit of tapping into what is a major chunk of our students' world - social media.

Just like Internet searches, social media can indeed subject our kids to the ills of pornography, indecent language, and objectionable advertisements, but for those of us worried about little Johnny and Suzie seeing something they shouldn't, I argue that that is not enough reason to ditch the SM avenue all together. After all, how many of us still have TVs and computers in our own homes - despite the threat of offensive content entering therein?

iStock Photo
So much of what we teach to our students is available Online in the form of content/concept-related resources, discussions, and other means. As we continue the work to shift education from "Sage-on-the-Stage" to an environment of student examination and discovery, allowing our kids to engage more with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. (while we model the appropriate use of them), social media acts as both the instructor and the "textbook" or our students.

All the while, under direction from knowledgeable teachers and other experts, students are simultaneously learning content and skills while also learning and practicing appropriate digital citizenship, i.e. how to use social media for good and not for nefarious purposes.

It seems that if the companies and businesses that will ultimately employ our students are embracing social media, then so should we as educators of the future workforce. How ironic it is that most school districts have Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter accounts to market their own schools, but the kids they serve are not allowed to utilize the sites while in the building!

This must change. And this is our charge:
  • Engage our kids in rich discussion with their peers - and "friends" from far away places - via hashtags. #Amazing!
  • Teach them how to connect with others from around the world. Who can be the first to get a "follower" from another country?
  • Model how to reach out to experts far and wide for advice and resources. Hey, if folks are on Twitter, they want to be reached out to!
  • Explain both the advantages and the snares of using social media, especially with younger students. #nevergivepersonalinformation
  • Show them (or have them show you) how to publish content on SM and how to market themselves to mass audiences. How is THAT for an authentic academic experience??
  • Model digital responsibility and monitor students' academic activity to ensure their safety. Garbage is everywhere, but we can avoid it with simple strategies.
  • Embrace the fact that teachers are no longer the sole source of information. Rather guide your students to consume and create properly and effectively.
An ISTE 2015 Ignite Session presenter had this to say about the way we educate students:
Old Projector without a Twitter Page
"What are the contents of their backpacks today compared to years past?"
To be sure, handing our kids a textbook that is at once outdated and irrelevant, is akin to us receiving a projector reel to show film strips to our classes. Who among us would stoop to such levels? (But hey! it worked for our moms and dads, right?)

While taking the leap towards allowing - encouraging - social media use in your classroom might be a major professional risk, the benefits of structured SM activity in your classroom far outweigh the potential damage.

Plus your kids will love it.
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