Modern modes of communication and social interaction have been of hot debate for many years now. Many critics believe that social networking sites and mobile technology act purely as distractions and deterrents to our students’ education. Very few of us can deny that social media becomes a distraction for anyone who uses it from time to time, but that doesn’t mean that total dismissal of the phenomenon is the right route to take. As social media and mobile technology continue to gain in popularity and prevalence among the younger generation, critics of the medium may need to reevaluate their judgment of the perceived pest. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and communication modes such as instant messaging and texting may hold an important place in primary education in years to come. And why shouldn’t they? Students obviously enjoy interacting through Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging—why not utilize that enthusiasm within the classroom? Here are three reasons to embrace social media and networking within the classroom.
Social Media Is Here to Stay
We can only deny it for so long. But, the fact of the matter is, social media isn’t going anywhere and students are going to continue using it regardless of how much we punish them for bringing it within our classrooms. An important lesson to learn for any parent, teacher, or individual is to pick your battles wisely. We are not going to be able to eliminate social networking sites and social media just because we are banning it from our students’ classrooms, so why are we fighting it so vehemently? With 73 percent of teens between 12 to 17 active on social networking sites, it seems we as educators should respond to that immense and widespread interest among our youth. Banning social media and cellphones from our schools is likely more of a waste of time, energy, and resources than it is worth.
Stimulated Engagement and New-Found Voice
Once we actually decide to embrace social media and modern communication technology, there are many things that the technology may have to offer our classrooms and our students. Part of the reason that social media and social networking are so popular has to do with its publicity. Middle schoolers and high schoolers have something important to gain from being more visible to and heard by their peers and mentors. We as educators and mentors to our young pupils seek to give them voices and show them their significance in a world that can often feel uninterested in the young persons’ interests and concerns. Social media and networking platforms provide a wonderful way to give young students a more public voice. Things like blogging and mircoblogging (Twitter and Facebook) help students find greater purpose and engagement in their work. They feel they are not purely doing an assignment for a teacher or a grade—their friends will see it and other people on the web may see it (in the case of a public blog). There is a sense of purpose and power in this that is extremely important to find as a teenager in today’s society.
Put Simply—It’s Reading and Writing
Social media and mobile technology—Facebook, Twitter, blogging, instant messaging, text messaging—each intrinsically encourage one of the foundations of education—reading and writing. Text messaging and social media have come under attack many times in the past for encouraging poor grammar and truncated language. Because the communication platforms have character limits, users are forced to shorten their discussions and limit their language. However, as many an English teacher will attest to, is this brevity really a negative thing? Not only are students who use text messaging and social networking intrinsically using written communication and reading skills in their everyday lives, they also gain lessons in concise writing and reading comprehension through the exercise. English and language teachers should embrace these platforms for writing, reading and communication because students are so attuned and passionate about them. Any practice in reading and writing is a positive thing for young students and finding ways to incorporate a student’s everyday habits into their academic habit can be a very positive thing.
Though as parents and educators we may not understand social networking, social media, or mobile technology, don’t rule out the explanation that we’re just too old to really get it. We should find ways to embrace the things that our youth are passionate about and utilize them within education and academia in a way that is positive and productive.
This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online universities advice. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.