Friday, March 15, 2013

Social Networking in Education

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.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Stranger Danger

As a child, my mother taught me about ‘stranger danger’ by scaring me to death.  She would tell me stories about kidnappings, rape, and murder, and I think I watched one too many Lifetime movies with her.  Even though this may be a slightly rough way to teach safety to your children, her parenting method worked.  I was completely terrified of pretty much anyone that I didn’t know; I remember on at least two different occasions where strangers approached me and I ran away.  Today, parents have an even bigger responsibility to protect their children; strangers are now able to target children in their own homes.  Internet safety is somewhat of a new conversation, but Darcy Meyers discusses the phenomenon and what parents can do to protect their children and their privacy in her blog article, “BEYOND STRANGER DANGER: Parental Control and Privacy Strategies to Protect Your Digital Child.”
Using blocks and restricting websites are an excellent way to prevent your child from viewing inappropriate websites, but Meyers insists that talking and reinforcing the danger to your children will ultimately keep them safe.  She says, “What is essential is creating and maintaining an open conversation that balances caution with fun and freedom.” Let your children or students know that they can come to you at anytime with questions.  As a parent or teacher, your first priority has to be to keep your children safe.  Even though it may be difficult or awkward to have the Internet safety conversation, it is a necessary one. 
Maybe my kooky mother wasn’t so kooky after all?