Whether or not you have integrated social networking into your school’s communications strategies, chances are good that social media is already in your building.
Maybe your teachers and administrators are using it, and almost definitely, students are using social networking and mobile communications such as Facebook, Twitter and text messaging.
Social media receives a lot of negative attention due to reports of predators and online bullying, yet social media in the classroom is an interesting proposition. While some schools have banned social media completely, others are embracing it. Some say that the educational benefits of social media far outweigh the risks and that when used properly, social media can be an educational way to help students understand the importance of using technology.
Use it to encourage learning. Eric Sheninger, principal of New Milford (NJ) High School, calls cell phones “mobile learning devices” and encourages teachers to ask kids to power up their cell phones to respond to classroom quizzes and polls. “The Internet as we know it is the 21st century,” Sheninger told USA Today. “It’s what these students have known their whole lives. They’re connected, they’re creating, they’re discussing, they’re collaborating.”
Teach responsibility. While some teachers shun social media in the classroom out of fear that kids will see offensive material, others use this as an opportunity to teach kids about digital safety and responsibility. The American Library Association policy says that Internet prohibition “leaves youth without the necessary knowledge and skills to protect their privacy or engage in free speech.” While it is true that the Web can be a dangerous place, librarians and teachers can educate minors about how to participate responsibly, ethically and safely online and in social networking.
Prepare for the future. It is important that kids learn how to navigate the online environment from a young age. Incorporating technology into lessons will help prepare younger students for advanced grades and give teens skills that will help them seek jobs or college admissions. Karen Cator from the U.S. Dept. of Education told edutopia.org that social networking can help improve the American education system by developing skills like critical thinking, problem solving and collaborating both on and offline.