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.