Thursday, January 14, 2010

Think Twice Thursday #2 - SNWYS

Not as much a resource today, but thoughts on my mind.  Something to "Think Twice" about.  Social Networking is changing the landscape and nature of the average teenager and therefore is changing education.  Social Networking is opening the door to more and more ideas, concepts, resources, people, and knowledge that educators SHOULD share with their students, and districts should allow their teachers to use.  It seems as though Social Networking and Web 2.0 are stuck behind the dam that is fear, and those that want to inegrate the technology into their classrooms, are picking at the dam with a screw driver hoping for it to crack and flood schools with these valuable resources.

It seems in education we are always fighting for or against change.  Change in how we teach, what we teach, when we teach, who we teach, and even why we teach.  What is interesting is that you can respond to all this with one simple statement - "For The Students."  It is why we do what we do.  It is why we fight change we hate, and embrace change we love; because as educators we know what is best for our students in our schools.  In my opinion what is best for our students right now, with this generation, is embracing Web 2.0 and Social learning tools.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Social Bookmarking, Blogging, Wikis, etc.  These are great Social tools.  These are great Networking Tools.  These are great Educational Tools.  What they really are is the next phase in education..."Social Networking With Your Students"

I use Twitter to be educated and informed.  Shouldn't students be using it for the same purposes?  Sure they will use it socially, but part of our job is to get them to see how it can be used professionally and encourage the use in that manner.   I use Facebook, in part to stay in contact with students who have graduated, but also be a professional reference for them as they grow older (I get messages monthly: "Hey Mr. Zimmer, I listed you as a reference on a job application - How would I know that without our professional student-teacher relationship on Facebook?).  I always told my kids that when they are 35 I would still be Mr. Zimmer or Coach Zimmer. 

Facebook at the same time could be used professionally by schools and districts; a place to share stories and announcements about your school or district.  Parents generally feel out of the loop as their children get older through the educational system.  I often wonder the percentage of parents that have Facebook...has to be over 50%...easily. 

Facebook could be a place for students to share ideas.  Just recently we had a student create a MacBeth Facebook Fan Page for her project.  Imagine the possiblities....Fan Pages all over Facebook over historical people, events, places, books, etc...all created by high school students with an edcuational purpose.  Imagine hundreds/thousands joining this page.  Sure beats a posterboard!

MySpace started out as a place to share music...why not let it be that way for students.  Encourage students to create and share music online.  Quite a few famous musicians were discovered because of their MySpace page.  Our students are creative.  Many students want to share their own ideas and knowledge about the world and life.  As educators we should be encouraging this free expression through blogging and Wiki's.  We don't have to know how to use it.  They will figure it out...but we need to share the idea and concept with them!

Integrating this technology will always fall back on the teachers.  The handling of the technology will always fall back on the teachers.  Teachers, Administrators, and myself get worried more about the 5% who will abuse the technology negatively, then the 95% that will use the technology positively.  But I have glossed over vision.  I see the positive before I see the negative.  Part of the solution is to constently share the good that students do with the technology, so that when a student negatively does use the technology, schools and districts have way more positives to share and overshadow the negativity and that Social Networking With Your Students is worth the fear and "risk."  Especially if your district can develop policies that encourage and enhance their use in safe and productive ways.

So "Think Twice" about Social Networking With Your Students.  I know I am.  What about you?