The social media storm was just beginning when I was just a young, eighteen-year-old college freshman. Mark Zuckerburg was probably still enrolled in Harvard as I was ‘friending’ cute classmates I didn’t know. My entire college experience was documented through photos, wall posts, and private messages. Going through the teaching program, several professors gave warning after warning about the dangers of social networking. After graduating from college, my goal was to be virtually invisible in all aspects online to students, potential employers, and colleagues. Now, in my second year as a graduate student in an educational technology program, my goal is to now have an online presence and have classroom activities be well-documented online. I’m no longer ‘friending’ cute classmates but ‘following’ educational professionals.
Darcy Mayers wrote an article for Dell’s educational blog titled, “Making Social Tools Your “Friend" ... Ideas for Streamlining the Home/School Connection.” After reading this article, I realized that social networking is no longer a taboo topic or inappropriate method of communication if used the proper way. Social networking is just what our country is moving towards. Tweeting with students is not only acceptable but encouraged because it promotes thinking about classroom topics outside of school. Using social networking as an educational tool encourages responsibility, collaboration, communication, and so much more. I had my third graders use StoryBird. My sixth-graders worked together using Scribblar.
Last week, I ran into my student-teaching coordinator that happened to be a huge advocate for not mixing social networking with education. As I was sharing everything I have been experiencing in my educational technology program and ways I’ve been implementing technology into my own classes, I could see the hesitation and fear in his eyes. There may always be educators that rebuff social tools in the classroom, but I know my students are actively engaged and learning. Instead of handwriting a book report, students created a Fotobabble and gave voice to characters in the book.
As social networking has matured, so have I. It is no longer just a tool to connect with friends but a way to share and expand knowledge. I use Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, Pinterest, and this blog as a method of communication and collaboration. I’ve taken teaching suggestions from online articles, creative classroom activities from Pinterest, and attempted to develop a contact with nearby educational professionals. I don’t believe it’s dangerous—it’s smart. Utilizing social tools makes better teachers. Period.