Bringing Social Media into the Classroom…If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

A recent poll by reveals “1 in 4 students say they access in the daily”  but “…most U.S. and German say they never access social media in the classroom.”

Some other key takeaways from the Dell study:

  • 88% agree technology helps prepare students for the jobs of the future
  • More than 8 in 10 agree that technology makes learning easier.
  • 71% say students have access to more advanced technology at home than they do at school.
  • 83% of respondents globally believe technology gives students a more experience.
  • 71% of respondents believe that learning outside of the classroom and beyond the school year is important.

So here is the $64,000 question:  Does social media belong in the classroom?  I would say…Yes with some caveats.  I am certainly not suggesting we enable Facbook, and for everyone in the classroom so that .  I am suggesting we look for ways to incorporate social technologies to:

  • Foster better communications between parents, teachers and students
  • Engage with students who are are already using some sort of
  • Share information to drive improved learning for all students.

Social media is not just a mechanism to share updates with friends or post the latest funny cat video.  The world of social technology -  blogs, podcasts, tags, file swapping, wikis etc.. – can change the way our students learn if educators are able to embrace it.

Here are some examples:

  • Blogs -  What if students were to write their reports or essays as blog entries?  Students would think:  ”Hey, this is not just some paper that my teacher will throw away.  My friends, family and others will see it.”  What if teachers used blogs to communicate what is going on in the classroom versus sending that email or piece of paper home?  Parents could subscribe to the blog avoiding the emails and paper which eventually end up in the trash.  Some safe, FREE tools:   ; 
  • Collaboration – Like it or not, we live in a global interconnected world.  Schools need to educate our children on how to collaborate.  What if was conducted via social technology where all files, discussions, and results were managed?   Think about the discussions this could foster and that information would be available online…potentially forever.  FREE tool
  • Podcasts -  What if students could publish a report as a podcast?  Some students just thrive by communicating orally or verbally….their report would be available to all…

These are some ideas about how to incorporate social technology.  Let’s face it, the internet is not going away and social technologies are here to stay.  To prepare students for lifelong success, we need to enable them with not just the knowledge to succeed but we also must provide them with the skills to use today’s tools to succeed in an increasingly competitive, interconnected world.

It is funny to me watching educators and and administrators debate how to best “teach” technology to their students at all levels, from kindergarten to senior year in . I often joke that if non-computer savvy people want to learn about computers or technology, they just need ask a 4-5 year old!

I was reminded of this by my 6 year old who grabbed and began learning on the app. No one taught her how to use technology. She just gets it and frankly, she does not think about the fact that she is using technology to learn. It is just another one of the arrows in the quiver.

As we think about teaching technology in schools who are we really teaching? Who is the student and who is the master? by Dell Inc indicates teachers believe students are more tech savvy than they are. Additionally respondents indicate that training focuses more on education practices and technology versus integrating technology into the curriculum.

I do not believe there is a debate about including technology in school. I believe the question is this: How can educators include technology in a seamless manner to facilitate the learning process?

Like it or not, there is a . Kids today have grown up with technology while many of the teachers discovered computers later in life. I relate this to learning a language…When you grow up in Germany speaking German it is second nature. If you decide to learn German when you are 30, you will never reach the same proficiency level.

So how do we overcome this digital divide?

  • Mandate technology proficiency in all new hires: Define the competencies desired and ensure all new teachers can demonstrate them.
  • Train existing teachers: Ensure there is a process for continuous improvement with formalized training for all teachers to reach a defined level of competency. Hire an “expert” to train. The key here is to focus on how to incorporate technology in the learning process.

What if educators and administrators could take advantage of the existing proficiency within their schools? Could a 6 year be the answer to closing the gap?

Let me know your thoughts!