Technology and Education

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Do Social Networks Have a Place in the Classroom? January 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kris @ 1:37 pm

We live in a world where people are able to communicate all over the world through this space that we call Internet.  Almost everyone is on some type of online social network, especially our students.  Some schools have blocked sites like Facebook so students are not able to access it during the school day, which in my opinion may be a good thing.  With the prevalence of social networks we certainly have not been using them much in our schools.  Some schools or individual teachers may have something set up with their students, but generally it is avoided or disregarded as an appropriate teaching tool.  Additionally, we often hear about cyber bullying which further puts us off in the use of social networking tools.

What are the possible benefits from using a social networking site in your class?

  • Well, if a student misses school whether they are sick, at a medical appointment or on vacation a classroom that is connected on the internet will provide them with the material that they missed.
  • Teachers may even post the day before what students can be expecting to see in the coming days with class.  Homework reminders and due dates can also be posted.
  • For the teacher who works closely with the social network he or she can set up a question dialogue regarding certain projects and assignments.  This would enable students who are at home be able to contact their teacher after school hours and on weekends with their questions and concerns.
  • Discussion pages can be set up regarding concepts recently learned and presentations given by students and special guests.  Some of the discussion topics may not even be started by the teacher but by the students.
  • You and your students will be able to post relevant and useful websites to the network as well to aid each other in the exploration of their learning.
  • Furthermore, if you are concerned about the environment and trying to go paperless, you can have all your students submit their assignments online and they can easily be made available for public viewing if you so choose.

I feel that using a social networking site in your classroom will make school much more relevent to your students and enable you as a teacher to see what your students are interested in and passionate about.  Many teachers are trying to fulfill the home, school, and community aspect of teaching.  Using a social network you are able to do just that.  Parents are able to see what is happening in the classroom, and the community can view what you want them to view.

I hear your questions and concerns too.

“What about cyber bullying and uninvited users”? as the manager of the site, you are in charge who has access to the page from a viewing point and a contributing point.  It will be you as the teacher who invites your students into the network.

“If I put all my class work on the internet students can skip school!” If you are a teacher who uses social networking in your classroom and makes school relevent to the lives of your students, they will probably not want to miss a day if they can help it.

“It takes too much time to set up a social network page”  Initially it may take you some extra time to set up a networking site, especially if it is your first one.  As you gain experience with different networking sites things will start to move faster.  Your students may also be able to help you maintain your site and as they contribute on their own your network will quickly take shape.

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5 Responses to “Do Social Networks Have a Place in the Classroom?”

  1. Josie Says:

    Asynchronous learning (no more snow days) for sure. And – as know learning to be inherently social, connected, active and interactive – it follows that social networking can take it to a new level.
    But: Is it true that “Social technology is the death knell of progressive education”. (http://www.pdscompasspoint.com/)

  2. Noeline Says:

    Interesting premise from students’ p.o.v. From a teacher’s p.o.v., the issues are more likely to focus on things like the practicalities of: regular access to technology to make these posts, time to do it (using up more personal time for work?- eg lunchtimes, evenings… how do you do it if you teach most of the time?), and technological know how. While some schools and teachers are wired for everything, some still have rudimentary tools, crap access, firewalls for everything, and little just-in-time technical support.

    Getting beginning teachers to use any ICT tool in one lesson while on practicum raises all sorts of issues – as mentioned above, some schools/teachers/departments make this a fraught enterprise, and some associate teachers (who make be technophobic) may not support such experimentation.

    On the other hand, there are those student teachers who thrive on huge in-school support, learn new technological tools, or teach their associate teachers new ideas.

    It is also wise to think more broadly than present circumstances too, and ideals. If I was a teacher in somewhere like the Solomon Islands for example, I would be lucky to have a relaible electricity supply, let alone any digital technologies to work with.

    You have raised some great ideas that could support the responsible learner in a digitally resourced school, and provide some ideas for digitally proficient teachers to support learners.

  3. Alan Stange Says:

    I agree with Noeline’s point’s about preparation time for on-line assignments and student access. It is relatively simple to post PDF copies of readings and worksheets on a website, but those perpetuate the sorts of learning we need to reconsider. More dynamic learning experiences take time and expertise many still don’t have. We are, however, only talking about a single access point to education, not the whole experience.

    I teach in the sort of school where my students will pull out for two weeks to head to a warmer location mid winter. Parents approach me asking for worksheets to take with them. Isn’t the trip compelling enough? If their kids are that bored, perhaps they need to consider shorter vacations. Frankly if they keep a journal, take some pictures and read a few decent books I think they will be fine. That said, I did ask if they would have web access at their resorts. I have established a variety of ways to connect and I think that would be better than a package of work sheets. We can exploit social networking possibilities through things like my classroom Ning Network and an endless supply of decent educational sites.

    • Kris Says:

      Thank you for reminding about schools that are not well set up for computer access. I did my internship in a school where my class did not even once go to the computer lab. I hope to go back and do some work with them and develop a website as a class project.

      With what noeline stated about computer access, I think that some things can be done and set up during scheduled computer lab time. But with that being said, I know a lot of teachers like to use it as research time for projects.

      I certainly anticipate it to be difficult to maintain.

  4. chelsea Says:

    I took my entire first semester of Education online and through distant learning and I loved it! I think the internet can have a really positive effect in the classroom because, like you said, kids can access the class from home if need be. With being involved in an online class it was really neat to be able to independantly learn at your own rate while still being involved with discussions via the internet….even parents could access a better understanding of what is their child is learning in a particular class if it was posted online.


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