April 24, 2012 by Brad Currie
Social media is defined as using websites and other online means of communication by large groups of people to share information and develop social and professional contacts (www.dictionary.com). Throughout the world schools are using social media in a positive fashion to help inform, promote and educate. Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Skype have all been integrated into the classroom setting and have made learning engaging and relevant. Often social media gets a bad rap for the negative situations that arise from time to time. All in all though, students and teachers use these tools as a vehicle to make sense of the world around them. Success story after success story can be found on the Internet as to the many ways learning has improved since using social media tools in a positive way.
Twitter for example, has been used recently by many educators to assess students in real time as it pertains knowledge acquired related to a certain topic. New Milford High School in New Jersey, lead by principal Eric Sheninger, has seen great success with incorporating mobile learning devices and social media tools such as Twitter and Poll Everywhere to engage students in the curriculum and get a sense of where they stand with comprehending concepts and facts: (http://esheninger.blogspot.com/2012/02/twitter-resource-for-all.html).ReadingtonMiddle School has provided training for staff members on the benefits of using social media tools such as Twitter, to expand their personal learning network. This type of professional development has had a positive impact on student learning as educators share ideas and lessons with each other online and then put into practice what they have learned.
Facebook is another Web 2.0 tool that has made communication and collaboration much easier for students in the school setting. From a communication standpoint students can stay well informed of classroom assignments, extracurricular activities and other important dates. Also, schools have done an outstanding job of informing stakeholders and promoting student achievements on Facebook, such as Burlington High School in Massachusetts, which is led by principal Pat Larkin: (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Burlington-High-MA/114704011679). There are other countless examples of teachers using this particular social media tool to engage learners as education blogger Lisa Nielsen explains: (http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/07/8-real-ways-facebook-enriched-ms.html).
YouTube and Skype provide yet another social media outlet to engage learners and make learning meaningful. Teachers are now more prone to “flipping the classroom” and available to students 24/7 for feedback and support as Tina Barseghian explains: (http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2011/09/five-reasons-why-youtube-rocks-the-classroom/). Skype is a popular option for students to collaborate and learn from other students in a particular field of study. Readington Middle School French teacher Alfonsina Altomare has Skyped with a middle school class fromFrance on several occasions this school year so that her students can make more sense of their culture and language.
The benefits of social media in the school setting outweigh the risks on several fronts. This has been made possible by educators worldwide continually challenging themselves to engage learners and make learning more relevant. Through professional development on Twitter and other personal learning networks, educators are able to share ideas and in turn impact instruction in a positive way. Schools leaders and educators across the country continue to promote the integration of social media to provide students with meaningful learning experiences. Students are comfortable with social media and therefore schools are “stepping up to the plate” and incorporating these educational tools to promote their success.
By: Brad Currie, Vice Principal at Readington Middle School @bcurrie5