The kids are all right – with social media. What about the teachers?
Many school boards are deploying technology to ensure students do not have access from school accounts to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Few have begun to examine progressively and systematically how social media can be used to enhance learning opportunities for students. There are the occasional progressive schools that have begun Facebook pages for kindergarten children and some schools are using it in creative writing and English classes. Yet the vast majority of school boards and the teachers in their employ are not ready to engage in this new frontier. Some have remained reluctant to engage parents and student through email and web based student information solutions, like K-12 Planet, let alone open the doors of social media. Education must be progressive and aggressive in use of social media or society will surely suffer enormous consequences economically and socially in the not too distant future.
Students at Belmont High School in Massachusetts have clearly demonstrated their knowledge of Facebook and Twitter, having brought considerable pressure on the school board to reverse a decision to cut course offerings. The students organized and engaged the school board in an arena that was essentially foreign to the adults. Interestingly, the kids are more literate in this space than most teachers and school board officials. A recent case illustrates this. A teacher wanting to access his Facebook page through a school computer to show students a posting which was curriculum related, realized a filter installed by the school board would not allow this to happen. The teacher expressed the frustration in class. Then a student took two minutes and was able to use the same computer and route the request through a website which granted access to Facebook for the teacher.
Education is always slow to respond to change evidenced by the existing pre-industrial curriculum model of grades based on age, classes in rows and a set program of studies.
What can be done? It starts with Education departments and school boards. They need to recognize the value of incorporating social media into the existing curriculum rather than creating a stand-alone course of study. Integration will be least intrusive and more widely accepted. Once a strategy is prepared, spend money and resources on in servicing of teachers. Design and create opportunities where social media can “add value” to the work of teachers and the curriculum they teach. If departments and school boards are successful in doing this they will be successful in motivating teachers to take up the torch to facilitate social media inclusion. Let parents see the value of social media infused curriculum, accept their input and their advice. The time for action is now. The students are already there – waiting!
Failure to move now will be catastrophic. This new revolution of social media is leaving education and the systems that perpetuate the status quo in the dust. It’s time for educators everywhere to run and try to jump on the train . . . it’s already left the station.