Social media is a pervasive modern technology of the 21st century. With Facebook growing at a rate of over 700,000 new users a day, there is no denying that social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter have made it very easy for people to connect with one another. However, casual socializing is not the only purpose of these modern tools. It turns out that in the past years, since these social media networks started and became popular, more and more people have been using them for work and business purposes, too. Why not? The digital world has made it easier not just to connect but to share ideas and collaborate as well.
In fact, even educational institutions believe that social media is a beneficial tool to use in the classroom. Social media is now being recognized as an effective tool for teaching students in the classroom. However, many teachers are resistant to this idea. A recent national poll conducted by The University of Phoenix College of Education involving 1,002 full-time K-12 educators all over the U.S. revealed that only 13% of teachers embrace social media as a tool for classroom teaching.
Perhaps one of those few is Michael Wesch, an associate professor who teaches cultural anthropology at the Kansas State University. A few years before this survey was even conducted, Wesch, who once received the National Professor of the Year award and gives TED talks, had already gained popularity for his tech-infused teaching, which involved YouTube, Twitter, and Google docs for document sharing and collaboration among students. Wesch believes that these social media tools, when used properly, can be effective learning tools for students, mainly because they’re interactive.
The Rationale behind Teachers’ Decision Not to Use Social Media
The majority of teachers still prefer the traditional method of teaching. Eighty-seven percent do not use social media for teaching. The main reason behind this reluctance is the lack of training. While most teachers have had some training for integrating technology to teaching, more than half of the respondents said they had little to no training at all when it comes to using social media to engage with students and their parents. Despite this number, nearly half wanted to learn more about new technology in classroom teaching. Another reason is that many of these educators are afraid that social media may prove to be distracting in a classroom setting, a worry that Wesch also shared.
Perhaps an archetype of traditional lecture teaching is another Kansas State University professor, Christopher Sorensen. Sorensen is an advocate of “old-school” teaching; he does not even use PowerPoint presentations in his class. Every morning, he still reads his notes and rehearses his lectures so he is well-prepared in front of his students.
Of course, teachers have their individual methods of teaching—traditional or modern—that work for them and their students. However, we cannot deny the fact that technologies such as social media are slowly penetrating the academic setting and that there are benefits that can be derived from using them.
The dean of educational technology of the University of Phoenix, Kathy Cook, stressed the importance of the integration of social media in teaching, so she offered a few tips for teachers who may want to start adopting these tools into their teaching methods:
- It’s important to create guidelines for students in using social media. This will produce a positive online presence for both the teacher and the students and prevent unwanted online behavior.
- Use “closed” social media sites or private blogs to limit access by unwanted users.
- Connect with students worldwide by using projects such as Skype in the Classroom or Global Read Aloud.
- Use social media to connect with experts from across the globe who can share their knowledge and expertise with your students.
- Together with your students, learn how to use social media. You can also learn from other teachers or take classes for better training.
In this age of technology, social media is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity. If social media seems overwhelming, take things slowly when introducing them to your teaching. In the end, it’s still important to trust your instincts and go for what works best for you and your students.
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