Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts on "Leveraging the Power of Social Media in the Classroom"

Of the many presentations available through the K12 Online Conference, the one that jumped out at me was Elaine Plybon's "Leveraging the Power of Social Media in the Classroom." There is no ignoring the force that social media is becoming, so to potentially find a resource that utilizes its potential capabilities in the classroom definitely piqued my interest.

This presentation did not meet the expectations I had in mind. Prior to viewing Plybon's video, I thought it would focus on how to actually use the likes of Facebook and Twitter within class, and perhaps as a way to further discussion outside of the class as well. Instead, it was merely her telling about "educational" fake websites like FakeBook, MyFakeWall and FakeTweetBuilder that supposedly engage students. In my experience with these websites, there is very little actual learning being done. As a way to potentially reflect on a lesson, it may stoke a student's creativity, but it predominantly does nothing more than parrot back surface-level pieces of learning. For example, look at the Facebook and Twitter projects Plybon displays. What higher order thinking skills are being illustrated? Both also use textspeak, something we as teachers should be actively dissuading our students from doing rather than reinforcing through projects that any (read: most to all) tech-savvy and tech-literate students could accomplish within a short period of time.

I did however like the idea of the Pinterest board as a tool. While it may not be as visually stimulating as a PowerPoint or Prezi, I definitely think it could be effective within the classroom. Same goes for a blog, whether a student is reflecting on their own thoughts or using it as if they were a person from the past or literary character. There is a greater opportunity for depth and exploring further complexities in these two tools when compared with a fake Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Yet according to one person in the comments thread of that video, "I would never want to write another biography paper again if I had the option creating a project like this instead." This is a terrifying thought. Maybe I am a bit biased as an aspiring English teacher, but the need to effectively communicate will always be an important tool, especially for developing minds. Good writing leads to good reading and good thinking. Students (and adults) can always further hone this skill, so to ignore it in favor of projects like this does more harm than good.

As for these videos as a tool for teacher professional development, I see no real problem with it. Whether you agree with the content or not, it is important that teachers remain curious, assess their own abilities, and try to better themselves whenever possible.  

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