Learning through social networking media?

068 laptopWith students glued to Facebook rather than paying attention in class, we wonder if they could teach better using a social network instead. Social media may be useful, but the belief that everyone is using sometimes lead to further exclusion.  MySpace (yes, it still exists) Tumblr, Reddit, DeviantArt, Pinterest even LinkedIn are chosen by some students rather than Facebook and Twitter, because they offer different things.

Mimi Ito recently traced what teenagers and young adults did on social networking sites. Most of it was everyday social transactions, sharing entertaining moments, and self publicity. A few used sites to explore and gain new knowledge. She also noted that teenagers feel weird having adults on the social networking sites.[1]

It’s not particularly wise to have students them complete assignments on social networking sites, unless they are set up for education, such as Edmodo. Instead, they need to know how to use the sites, but the only site the should be required to learn is the school’s website, and these are often quite confusing. Students needing resources with different subjects must determine which kind of sites best fit their goals. Classes can even have “show and tell” times when students show interesting sites and describe what they have learned. (Yes, remind them what is school appropriate beforehand.)

Along with social media usage comes instruction in how to avoid pitfalls. In the world of social media success is measured quantitatively, number of hits – with actual impact remaining unknown. A easy and harmful way to do this is my spreading lies and rumors. Give a few examples of students who entered the  court system due to this kind of crime. Also help students to practice the relationship skills of setting expectations and limits, giving encouragement and watching out for others when on-line.

[1] Ito, Mizuko. Hanging Out, Messing Arounc and Geeking out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media, MIT Press.
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