Last week in my Blog I talked about personal learning networks and their potential to create professional learning communities for teachers by providing 24/7 professional support with the potential to extend the walls of their staffroom by connecting teachers from all over the world. Of course, personal learning networks are not, nor should they be, restricted to teacher use. When we talk about the “the connected classroom” – we are looking at expanding the communication and collaboration of our students and their classmates to include experts, students, and facilitators from all over the world through Web 2.0 and social media. Who can argue with that? And yet, K-12 classrooms and colleges have been slow to embrace the use of social media in the classroom, with many college instructors instituting laptop “lids down” time, and states like Missouri, restricting and banning its use public education. Why? Likely, it is due to the stigma surrounding the phrase “social media.” The notion of “social” conjures up fears of idle gossip, time wasting and distractions, as well as inappropriate contact between teacher and student. As Jenn Pedde (May, 2011) blogged in Education 2.0: Why Facebook and Twitter Should Be Part of Your Classroom “being social is inherently human.” Social media are merely the tools that enable the student to be actively social. Considering schools are the primary “socializing” institute! Shouldn’t learning be social? Why should the social nature of learning through communication and collaboration be restricted to the classroom?
Perhaps the obvious answer is this is the fact that education has been traditionally top down delivery. Teachers have been the gatekeepers of the knowledge, selecting what to pass down to students. Although, pedagogically, education and curricula development now recognizes the student as the centre of the learning and the teacher as a facilitator guiding the inquiry, the bias against “outside” sources of instruction may still exist within the teaching profession. Teachers who have traditionally worked in isolation are not likely to embrace opening the “windows “into the classroom. For those teachers who have embraced technology, the challenge is to find ways to employ social media without crossing the professional line. Such practices as creating Facebook pages for the classroom where teachers would not have profiles or “friend” students, and sending Twitter messages to parents are promising uses of social media outlined in the Heriff Jones WhitePaper: The Educational Promise of Social Media (September 2011) and the New York Times article Speaking Up in Class, Silently, Using Social Media . However, the primary obstacle may still be the bias against the phrase “social media” – how do we convince teachers, parents, and school divisions that being “social” is positive and necessary form of collaboration for our students? What suggestions do you have for overcoming this bias?