Saturday, March 12, 2016

Social Media in Teaching and Learning

Mindlab Post 7/10

The Task:
What are some key features of social media that you have identified as beneficial for teaching and learning?
What are potential challenges that teachers need to be aware of when integrating social networking platforms into teaching activities?
What social media platform do you feel best supports engagement with your professional development? Why?
How do/would you use social media to enhance your professional development?

It intrigues me when I hear people talking about keeping the world of social media away form teaching and learning.  Probably in the same way that it intrigued people years ago when schools let fountain pens be used instead of slate, or half a century ago when ballpoint pens were seen to be the scourge of modern education as they took over for fountain pens.

Social media is the world we live in now. We know the news as it happens. When we went into lock down at a school this week and the loudspeaker told us to remain in our rooms wiht no further information, as adults we went straight to twitter and news apps on our mobile phones to see if the world outside knew what was happening. Of course this requires some critical thinking skills. The ‘news’ spread on social media is often rumour based. But I’ve seen some pretty big assumptions in print media over the last few months too. Of course we need to teach critical literacy skills. And those skills need to take higher priority in our teaching programmes than some of the content and skills of the past. 

I wrote in a previous post about the power twitter has given me personally in my professional learning over the last couple of years. I have connected with people locally, nationally and globally. I have learnt new things through reading others thoughts and the links they publish. My professional learning was broadened extensively- it was no longer dependent on the people geographically close to me and the face to face events I could afford to get to. Twitter with it’s 140 character restrictions has shaped me into a better writer. I have found participating in twitter chats and having to figure out what I really believe as part of conversations in 140 characters or less great for sharpening my meta-cognitive skills.

I belong to educator Facebook groups, and occasionally look at stuff that comes up on my feed. I know some of the teacher Facebook groups are a great source of inspiration and help to some teachers. I also know there has been some powerful conversations about the content some teachers put on them- theres been a lot of learning about copyright and about appropriateness of comments, requests for support and offers of help. Again some real learning about where professional boundaries are. I personally have some real concerns about the support some of these teachers are getting in their schools when they have to ask for the kid of support they ask for ut at least it is an avenue for that.

The brevity of twitter was also great when I used it in a classroom for reflections. We asked learners to reflect using a format- rating their  focus level, one thing they had learnt ir developed and a feeling word as they left class. By standing t the door and farewelling learners with your phone you could see if they had tweeted- no collecting in of books etc. And then you could reply to tweets you wanted clarification for, like things and even retweet things for other learners to see.

I’ve seen Facebook used successfully on classrooms to share learning- with each other and with whānau. Its immediacy for giving peer feedback is great, and its yet another opportunity to teach digital literacy and cyber awareness through authentic tasks when you set up agreed collective understandings about what feedback is appropriate.

Ive heard significant arguments for and against teachers being ‘friends’ with students on social media platforms. And I’m undecided on this myself. However I have seen some great teaching of cyber safety cyber awareness and digital literacy through this. Teachers becoming aware of escalating issues and being able to become part of helping young people deescalate and work towards solving issues rather than making them worse. I’ve seen teachers work through Facebook statements with young people that they have then decided to remove and hopefully gradually learn not to posit any more. If those teachers hadn’t been ‘friends’ with those students online they would not have been aware of those escalating issues.

Of course teachers also need to keep themselves and young people safe so this needs some robust discussion and agreements but let’s personalise those discussions and agreements. What is appropriate in one context may not be in another. 

And let’s not put our heads in the sand and think that our young people are going to learn to use social media effectively and with respect by banning it from the place they spend so much of their time. We are only banning effective learning opportunities.

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