Social networks have been frowned upon by lower education (K-12) since computers started entering school districts. Websites where students vent and post about every aspect of their life was always looked over as something that could not impact students on an educational level.
Our school district first made a philosophical switch with the introduction of Moodle, a place where teachers can post assignments and communicate with students outside of the classroom. No matter what your personal stance on Moodle is, it has proven to been a great place for students to find extra help or keep up with homework assignments.
However, there is a lot more to the web than Moodle. So far, many colleges have started to take advantage of social networks that dominate students past-times; these institutions understand the benefits of social media. Just think: you need to research something about, say, the GOP Presidential campaign for a civics class, you can Google the topic. Colleges understand that searching by hashtags on Twitter is just as effective. By using hashtags, you can instantly see articles and Tweets from the public, newspapers, and the candidates themselves, all relevant information to your research.
To be fair, Bethel High School has allowed the use Twitter and Tumblr this year, which I applaud. But the fact that we’re not using these social media sites for researching current events or inclusion in classroom surprises me.
This leads me to the website that would probably make the biggest difference in school: Facebook. I would argue that the website that pretty much dominates the internet, hasn’t been truly used to its full potential in lower education. Many universities in the past two years have started using this powerful communication tool by posting events, news, delays, and birthdays. Clubs can post important dates and urgent announcements. For the many group projects that have been introduced to us this year, students can collaborate and share documents and presentations from across their school or across town. In addition, many students have also helped each other edit their essays or assist with homework troubles via Facebook. Thus, Facebook can be used as a revision and reinforcement tool.
While Facebook has potential, let’s not kid ourselves; most of us would probably use the tool for our personal lives instead of for academic purposes. Many classes have taken the initiative to create groups on Facebook dedicated to the furthering their education (outside of school, though). Even the Wildcat Word has a Facebook page for articles and announcements.
The way of the world is switching to digital collaboration, but K-12 schools seem to be late adopters when it comes to technology in the classroom. Lectures on a SmartBoard aren’t enough. Teachers need to take social media into their own hands and harness the power of these 21st century communication tools.