Social Networking Goes to School

I just completed a week-long history institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The folks that attended my sessions were great. They asked challenging questions and were engaged all week.  During the week, I conducted a number of topical sessions related to the teaching of history. Thursday, we spent time discussing the impact of technology and its use in teaching history; we discussed a number of pros and cons about the Internet in the classroom. One such concern is that of “play time.” This is a matter that both high school and college instructors face daily when permitting students to use lap tops in class. One teacher stated during my institute that lap tops in the classroom are a decade old concept. Moreover, they do not offer the type of classroom engagement we as educators would like to think.
However, the use of interactive sites and smart boards are currently the best methods and means of using technology. The challenge of course is that of cost and the short-term purpose it tends to offer. I use YouTube religiously in class. It provides a great avenue to show clips that might help students see a concept. As of late, I have come to feel like an expert (I am not) on social networking in education; I served on a recent panel that addressed its purpose and how it might be effective in promoting discourse among students and colleagues; we also addressed the matter of academic freedom and how such social networks are contested by schools.  Professor Jeff Baker, a colleague and friend of mine shared this article with me on social-networking sites here. The article addressed the big challenge faced by educators as noted here:

But many educators who see the value in social networking face significant obstacles to incorporating it into their school days.

Both Twitter and Facebook are blocked by many school computer networks. Even Sheninger, who has had great success with his school’s official Facebook page, says the site still isn’t accessible from inside the school’s walls.

“One thing I ran into a lot in the U.S. was filtering or blocking,” says Terrell. To use some social-neworking sites or tools, “I had to get the technology director and let him know specifically what I was using it for, and it was a long process getting sites unblocked.”

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4 thoughts on “Social Networking Goes to School

  1. Our little, dinky high school (we’re HOPING for an 80- student enrollment next September) uses a LOT of technology in our classrooms. I Skyped you in twice last term (and plan to do it again next, too, so be ready!). We are the only school in the state to do virtual snow days – on days when the building is closed due to weather, students log in to the WizIQ platform at a prescribed time and we hold classes there.

    At the end of last term, we switched from Ning as our school’s class site to Haiku (Ning decided to end its no-fee option). I LOVE Haiku; I can post all my assignments there, students can interact within the site, they can email each other or me, they can upload their work (which I can comment on and send back to them for re-writes), and it comes with an integrated grading platform. There are one or two minor things that it doesn’t do (or, what’s probably more likely, one or two things I haven’t yet figured out HOW to do). I like it MUCH better than opened sites like Facebook or MySpace because it’s dedicated SPECIFICALLY to the school – and to the individual classes. I’m looking forward to next term and all the training I’m going to get on the program; I think it’s going to be a HUGE asset to the school…

  2. Chili;

    Skyped seems to be a great medium and way to bring in guests who might offer a different view on a topic. It is so interactive and offers in many ways a great interactive setting. But, I hear schools block this too. Sad. Haiku. I do not know this. Very curious.

  3. I think that social networking tools fall under the category of what most don’t understand, and when we don’t understand we fear, and when we fear something, we want to keep it at arms’ length. I am sloppily paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King here, but, save it to say, that educators have to devote concerted time deconstructing social networking tools, being trained in how to effectively use them in the classroom, and then just simply playing around with them.

    A case in point: About a year ago, I signed up for what I believed to be an intriguing workshop: “YouTube in the Foreign Language Classroom.” After having paid the fee, and awaiting the workshop day with great anticipation, I was informed that the workshop had been cancelled. D you know why? Lack of enrollment. On the one hand, it was difficult for me to understand why the workshop hadn’t garnered more interest. On the other hand, based on what I have written above, I do understand.

  4. …that and of course too much policing of technology; I say allow students to use it as a means of education. Lap tops are not interactive; it is a ten year old concept. But, it is how we use the technology; I must work on this part.

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