Weighing the Risks and Rewards of Social Networking

balance by hans s, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  hans s 

This week I had yet another colleague ask me if I truly thought letting kids use smart phones to text and tweet was really useful in learning, or just the newest fad in education – “much ado about nothing.” I remember well from where this colleague is coming. It wasn’t that long ago that I had the same reservations about the benefits of social networking tools in the classroom. Do the benefits really outweigh the costs and potential risks? Or, is this as my friend was intimating, another example of technology for technology’s sake and change for the sake of change without actually being constructive and productive innovation.

My response was to discuss my own metamorphosis from doubter, to believer and to tell him that as always, education requires us to balance new technologies for instruction with traditional instructional methods.  I directed him to a couple of great online resources that not only justify the use of social networking as sound constructivist pedagogy, but emphasize the need for a teacher’s purposeful planning,  creating the conditions in which a student can learn. The first was M.Madan’s post “Social Networking in the Classroom”  which effectively explores what social networking has to offer to learning: instant connection to promote sharing and collaboration in an constructivist pedagogy; and what social networking does not offer to learning: it does not ensure the development of a community of learning. To combat that he suggests a couple of important instructional considerations:
1. Maintain a constant presence.
2. Use a variety of supporting tools to process information.
3. Actively synthesize broadly scoped ideas into workable areas.
4. Continue to engage students.
The other great resource I found was an EmergingEdTech  post “7 Reasons to Leverage Social Networking in the Classroom”  which include engagement, social learning, better utilization of homework time and consequently class time, opportunities for writing, increased student dialogue, building of real-life communication skills, and connections.
However, as I suggested to another colleague a few weeks ago who said she really needed to get into Twitter, the best way to understand networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, is to use them yourself first. The best way I can think of to understand how you can use Twitter in your classroom is to let it be your classroom for a while. Start by using it to create a personal learning network for your own professional development. Sonja Cole suggests “25 Ways to Teach with Twitter”  with simple things like asking for recommended lessons and books, asking for professional advice, starting to tweet about resources that have been useful for you, inviting  followers and looking for people to follow.

I’m not sure if my resources convinced my colleague, but what it did to was challenge me to think outside the box and reaffirmed my belif in the value of social networking in student directed learning. Although there are risks in terms of privacy and professionalism, I belive that the risks outweigh the rewards. Thoughts?

2 thoughts on “Weighing the Risks and Rewards of Social Networking

  1. Kristen says:

    Time for me to google “pedagogy.”

  2. lorenaleibel says:

    Incorporating Social Media in the classroom is defintely risky business. It takes time, patience and battling through disappointments to get to a place where everything “clicks”. Since I incorporated Social Media in my classroom the results, the sharing and the dialogue have been amazing…as an educator I could not ask for anything more. People will question the validity….I did. The only way I saw the significance of SM as an educational tool was to try it out! My advice to those who doubt “Don’t knock it until you try it.”
    I applaud your courage! You are an inspirational school leader!

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