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Guest Post by Todd Nesloney: I would LOVE to hear other ideas you may have with how to use social media in your school/class. Please leave a comment below, Tweet me (@TechNinjaTodd), or email me at email@example.com
Just Block EVERYTHING
So this blog post idea has been running through my head for a while now. I’ve tried to really figure out how to say this and what exactly I wanted to say. I know I’m going to ruffle some feathers, but don’t we need that sometimes? These thoughts are completely my own. So here it goes….
I try to be creative. I try to think outside of the box. I try to prepare my students for the “real-world”. And isn’t that my job? Wasn’t I hired to inspire and educate children? Not to take a test, but to be prepared to interact and change the world around them!
The world we live in today is a technology driven world. When I was in High School (in the early 2000’s) only a few of my friends had cell phones. Now, not only do most of my 5th grade students have cell phones, but now many homes, period, no longer have “land-lines”, but use their cell phone as their main phone line.
As a senior in High School in 2003, I took a class on how to write HTML, because my high school was preparing me for a world of technology! HAHA! I don’t know many people now who could read HTML, much less write it! There’s so many more ways that technology has advanced just in the last 5 years.
Technology moves fast, yes. And as teachers we should be incorporating as much technology into our classrooms as possible. We should be teaching our students digital citizenship and how to create/share/interact with people from all over the world. Our students are no longer confined to the walls of their home when they go home. Whether we like it or not, kids are using technology. And using it A LOT!
I know some educators are reading this right now and thinking to themselves “You’re RIGHT! But my district’s internet filtering blocks everything!” or “my administration doesn’t support my students using much technology” or “my district encourages technology but they want to make sure that they can control every aspect of everything we use.” And I know it’s frustrating. I’ve dealt with it all too! And I’m fed up. I’m to the point where I just want to throw my hands up and say, “Why don’t you just block EVERYTHING!?!?”.
Students and Social Media
I’ve fought very hard the last few years for the right to use certain education tools in my classroom. Nothing good ever comes without a passionate teacher willing to fight. I’ve had to show time and time again, “Student’s will use technology correctly, IF WE TEACH THEM TO!” But that is so hard when everything we used is “blocked”.
Do I think we should have absolutely no filtering software at schools? No, that’s not what I’m saying. But teachers should have a say. Far too often we have people in positions of power who decide what can and can’t be used and it’s been YEARS since they’ve been in the classroom. Teachers are in the classroom NOW, and teachers know how much education has changed just in the last 5 years.
Social media being blocked is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’ve heard the reasons..
– It’s to keep the kids safe.
– Kids will write inappropriate/mean/bad things.
– Kids should be learning, not on social media!
– There’s no educational value to social media.
– Well if we un-block it, they’ll just be on social media all the time
– and on and on and on
To that I say, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?” Whether we like it or not, our students are on social media when they leave school (and in all honest, most are on social media AT school!). Students are not stupid. They are figuring out ways around filtered internet. They have cell phones with data plans and whether you like it or not they’re on social media at school (in the bathroom, hallways, practice, etc).
Today’s parents are busy. Many don’t train their children how to correctly interact in an online world. And that’s because growing up, those parents didn’t have to! But as teachers, since it is our job to TEACH, shouldn’t we be teaching our students how to have good digital citizenship??
I have used a type of social media in my classroom the last few years called “Edmodo”. Edmodo is similar to facebook in design. The major difference? Students can’t send messages to individual students. Because of that singular fact, I have been allowed to use it in my classroom. And great, I get it. I’ve tried my hardest to teach my students how to correctly interact online, but they’re not using Edmodo at home or when they get older. They’re using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and more. Yet everyone of those tools are blocked in many districts.
We hear the horror stories of kids bullying others online or posting inappropriate pictures or worse! But imagine if those kids were TAUGHT that things posted online can never be deleted. Ever. More than just TOLD how to act, what if we TAUGHT our students how to use Facebook, how to interact on Twitter, how to share photos with Instagram or videos on YouTube? If we used that media as instructional tools we could not only teach our students how to use it correctly but also save them from major heartache later down the road from making mistakes.
Kids LOVE technology, that’s why they’re using it at home. And when they come to school and are told to put everything away and get out a sheet of paper and a pencil, of course they won’t like coming to school! We aren’t meeting the student’s needs at all. We’re actually hurting them. Those districts that are blocking every single thing or making it almost impossible for teachers to even use great educational websites, are hurting their students more than they even realize. And I really believe with all this high stakes testing, many administrators or school districts have lost sight of what our job is. NOT to teach a test, but more to teach a whole child.
Education is shifting. More and more schools are starting to unblock Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more because they see the educational value that those tools CAN hold. Students are social beings. They want to interact and share with people from all over the world. When we as teachers bring those tools into the classroom we have that “hook” that gets those kids interested in learning!
Imagine if students were tweeting out what they were learning that day from a class Twitter account, or if parents were keeping up to date with their child’s teacher by checking a school/class facebook page, or a homework assignment that required a student to take pictures and upload them to their instagram account, or find/create a video and upload it to a class YouTube account?
Now hold on. I know what some School Districts may be thinking as they read this, “Well as an educator, can’t you just find another tool/website that will do the same thing, that’s ‘safer’”? And my answer to that is, what’s the point? Why introduce a ‘safer’ alternative to the students that they will never use again in the real world? It makes absolutely no sense.
The possibilities really are limitless. School districts, superintendents, technology directors, administrators, school boards, I beg you…WAKE UP! Stop being so afraid of the social media world. Our students are on it. Period. End of story. And as educators we should be using it to teach our students and prepare them so that they don’t keep making those mistakes we hear about all the time on the news. Now, will there be mistakes? Will kids post or find mean/inappropriate things? Of course, they’re kids. But we need to stop, evaluate the situation, and use it as a LEARNING opportunity to teach the kids about consequences and what is and isn’t accepted.
Check back to see part 2: Teachers and Social Media
***I would LOVE to hear other ideas you may have with how to use social media in your school/class. Please leave a comment below, Tweet me (@TechNinjaTodd), or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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