Social Media: Choose the Bandwagon not the Soapbox

OK, here’s the thing … I’ve finally had enough; enough of colleagues ranting against social media! Yes, I know this sounds like a rant too. Be calm Simon, “get your Zen on.”

The latest edition of Australian Teacher Magazine (Term 4 2012) has its customary “Technology in Education” insert. Feature stories in this particular issue are dedicated to the ever present furore surrounding the use of social media in education. In all fairness, the editors have provided a well balanced view with articles from both experts in Cyber Safety and classroom teachers. Susan McLean, a former police officer who now conducts professional development sessions on the theme of “Respect and Responsibility,” concludes her article with a simple yet powerful statement.

“Education is the key to empowerment – we must act now!”

For McLean it is a matter of establishing “professional boundaries” while still focusing upon the positives of social media. A further story provides the results of an online survey conducted by the magazine with over 3000 school educators. Disappointingly (for me at least) 72% of the respondents were strongly against students accessing social media sites at school. Yet, I admit to having used Twitter (ever so quietly) in class with great success, despite the punitive nature of my school’s social media policy.

Midway through this school year I took on the newly created position of Learning Technologies Coordinator at my school. I feel my success rate so far has been OK with respect to the adoption into classrooms of some cool Web 2.0 tools. Likewise, I’ve had small but willing groups of attendees at voluntary after school professional development sessions. The one area where I know I’ve made no headway … you guessed it, social media. How do I know? Despite my constant campaign to have my colleagues create a Twitter PLN, I have close to 200 followers worldwide and … 2 at my own school. And I receive e-mails including statements like this:

“… it’s hard to guarantee that the Macbooks are being used for educational purposes. In fact, many teachers are already reluctant to use Macbooks within their classroom because of this issue of students accessing Facebook and YouTube … and many more will follow if we are unable to effectively monitor and ban their use in the future.” 

GOD … give me strength! The Australian government’s Digital Education Revolution (DER) acknowledged that social media sites deliver “… educational outcomes, facilitate supportive relationships, identify information and promote a sense of belonging and self esteem.” (Nolene Callaghan, “Embracing Social Media the Key to Student Engagement” in Technology in Education, Term 4 2012) Well, we can’t have things like that happening in schools!

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So, to conclude, because I’m banging the keys of my Macbook way too hard! Where to from here? I’ve convinced my supportive Deputy Principal to give me the same Year 8 group for two subjects next year and I have “permission” to use Edmodo, Twitter, Twiducate and Smart Phones within the classroom. My aim is to model “best practice” in an effort to showcase for the naysayers that social media can work in an educational setting. A big part of that will be teaching students the respectful and responsible use of social media. (Thanks again for those words Susan McLean.) I know that you don’t throw a 16 year old a set of keys and say, “Here you go, teach yourself to drive.”

But, (and this time I’m really concluding) I would welcome the thoughts and comments of anyone who reads this post. Can you suggest other ways that I might convince my colleagues to get on the bandwagon rather than the soapbox?

8 thoughts on “Social Media: Choose the Bandwagon not the Soapbox

  1. Maybe it’s time to ask them how they will fulfill standard 4.5 without having ever operated with the tech? And how they will tech the ict gen cap without knowing social and ethical protocols? It’s time to lose the fear! You can’t judge a book before you read it cover to cover. Nor can you judge tech without first trying to repurpose it 🙂
    Remind me to share some of my pre-service teacher blogs and prezis with you 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment Selena, “fear” is certainly prominent in those I’m trying to “convert.” I’m really hoping that my plan to model the benefits for them in 2013 will have some effect. This is also your reminder to share some of the prezis/blogs by your pre-service crew. Thanks again, Simon.

  2. I find that this is a challenge many of us face. I am in the middle of doing a series of voluntary Twitter workshops for colleagues, and the attendance in small. People smile and nod when I tell them all of the cool things and great people I find on Twitter, but they do not want to invest for a host of reasons. Many are highly suspicious of using it in the classroom, even when given positive examples. I am just hoping to bring a few people over at a time, and then create a critical mass. I think that having a supportive administration is key. Keep at it. It is best for kids that we learn to be connected, and then we need to get them connected globally – and that is what matters most, what is best for kids.

    • Hi there Molly, and please forgive the tardy reply … I’ve been interstate. I agree that what is best for the kids has to be the guiding principle. My frustration comes from those who can only reply “I don’t have the time for this!”
      Do let me know how and when you reach that critical mass.

  3. Keep going Simon ! With the support of your Principal it looks like you can continue to make inroads, model and you have formulated a plan for your learning purpose with year 8. Thanks for the read and inspiration 🙂

    • Hi Carla, and thanks for your support. I do feel that I’m still a VERY long way from making genuine inroads. But I also know that I have to keep going; my days in the classroom are numbered; so perhaps I can become some kind of prophet! LOL

  4. Many teachers seem threatened by the prospect of using social media in the classroom, yet we all know that our students are inherently social!! Tapping into these tools makes learning more interesting for them (and for me) and adds another dimension to the classroom. I recall twenty years ago when my son’s preschool issued a warning about the ‘satanic’ nature of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the negative impact they would have on our kids! Resistance to change combined with ignorance is clearly a trend I’m seeing amongst educators and it will take time for many to accept these new technologies.

  5. bblockb4 … thanks for your comments. I can only agree that resistance or perhaps fear are the real enemies. Those TMNT certainly were popular with my own son … Satanic or not! I look forward to seeking your opinions in the future as we continue to “fight the good fight!” Simon

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