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!
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?