Last April, the North Star published a newspaper focusing on social media use in the classroom. Until last year, the idea had been almost unheard of in the Francis Howell School District. Schools in other parts of the country like Texas and Minnesota are already using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube learning in their classrooms. Because social media is a part of culture, just as cell phones now are, and knowing how to use it will eventually need to be common knowledge, my blog for the next few weeks will focus on the beauty of social media. Yes, it does, and can have a place in the classroom. I will provide a series of tips, one each Wednesday, that illustrate 21st century social media integration.
Tip #1: Trust your students.
This is just a good rule to follow from the beginning of the year when you have a fresh class. One of the first barriers to kick down is the classic fear of “I don’t trust my students enough to let them do this.” Is it a fear of them making mistake? Is it fear of them making a mistake which could stir up parents which could potentially be turned back on you? Is it fear of them knowing more than you about something? If you’ve had doubts about allowing social media use in the classroom, figure out why. If you let them use something new and they make a mistake with it, it’s better that they make the mistake in a learning environment where it can be positively corrected, rather than later on when they are an adult and have no one to help guide them in another direction. If parents get mad at you, you are probably doing your job. You are exposing new technology to students that parents probably aren’t used to. This means you are doing your best as a teacher to prepare your pupils for the real world in the upcoming years. (For the record, Chanhassen High School, the Minnesota school who implemented social media in its classrooms, has never received a parent complaint for their social media use.) If your secret fear is that they could possibly know more than you, that only means you need to do a little research. Be prepared for a more open classroom flow of students showing you cool things they learned how to do you responding from the perspective of “Wow, that’s great. Can we do some more research on that? Let’s see what else this can be used for,” showing them the whole picture of the newest, greatest groundbreaking social media invention in the world (in their head.)
When diving into social media, you can get your toes wet. Or you can do a triple duck-turn backflip off the diving board. Most people usually do something in the middle. Decide how much you want your students to get out of it, whether it’s a well-rounded intensive knowledge of social media, or just the ethics that so many students need to know in order to avoid making fools of themselves on social networks.
We have all heard the horror stories of cyberbullying and see some ridiculous topics trending on social media. Across the board, adults, young adults and students have made mistakes on social media. This is why it is important that this generation is taught how to use social media effectively, because it is a good tool when used correctly. Even if the older generation can not be saved, the younger one can. Take that leap of faith. Trust your students. If they gain nothing else but what not to do on social networks from your class, that will be worth the effort.