Why Social Media Can and Is Changing Education

Social media is something that has become so prevalent in our culture that I have seen everything from large companies to churches having their own Facebook accounts. When I first was presented with the idea that using Twitter, Facebook, or blogging as something in education I was wary of its application. As I have immersed myself in the process, and have seen my own staff and school use this themselves along with students, I have seen some tremendous changes in their practice.

I really believe that using technology just to do the same things that we have always done, but on the computer, is not a good enough reason. There has to be more. Thinking about this today, I have really seen some of the impacts that social media is having on education.

1. It’s free. Okay, in reality, nothing is really free. We still have to pay for Internet and technology in our building, but our software costs have gone down significantly. As educators continuously have to deal with budget cuts, it is important that we use tools that do not have a cost on it. Safety is essential, but with teaching Internet safety, setting up certain sites, with a little hard work, the software costs nothing. Our school has paid $300 for server space (for three years) in the last two years that I have been here, and have set up a safe and secure blogging platform for our students. This is music to any educators’ (especially those dealing with budgets) ears.

2. It cuts down on isolation. One of our programs is an off-site building that is out in the country. This program serves 12 students and has two teachers. Every few years, this program is revisited and we ensure that teachers have an opportunity to move so that they have the ability to connect and learn from others. This year when we had the conversation, both teachers did not feel the need to move. They are both connected through many teachers through social networks and the feeling of isolation has somewhat dissipated. Now with small schools that are out in the country, you are never limited to the ideas and camraderie of those in the building, but those that you are willing to connect with. When I first started my career in a small town, it felt very lonely and on some days could be very taxing. The opportunity to connect is there for those who are willing to take it.

3. Building tolerance and understanding of cultural diversity. There are so many different cultures in the world and when I was a kid, we only had read about them in books. There is so much of an opportunity to not only read content from different people and hear their perspectives, but social media gives us the opportunity to actually talk with people. Having the opportunity to connect with people all over the world breaks down a lot of barriers and builds understanding. These are opportunities that we did not have as kids but we need to ensure that our students have this opportunity now.

4. It can amplify passion. Passion is a term that has been used a great deal in education. I am a firm believer that we have to build learning upon the passions and interests of our students. We now have the opportunity to not only connect with people of different cultures, but to people with similar interests. If you watch Chris Anderson’s Ted Talk, he discusses how people can connect with similar interests and create innovation in new areas. He talks about through the use of video, dance has evolved so rapidly because of the ease of sharing. The child who does not feel anyone has similar interests in the classroom, is not limited anymore. We can help to facilitate these connections in schools so our students do not only feel “normal”, but their passion thrives.

5. The world of education is (and needs to be) more open.
As an administrator, I need to continuously communicate and connect with not only my stakeholders, but the world of education. Parents no longer need to wonder what I am thinking, because I can share it continuously in an open way. I can do everything from sharing my calendar for the week with our community, to things I am reading. Chris Kennedy, a superintendent in British Columbia, shared everything from his cell phone number to his calendar with the entire world. The parent who may not know the teacher in the next grade, can simply follow their blog to get to know about some of the practices. This breaks down walls and helps to build relationships with families and our community. Parents could not see the other classroom’s “newsletter” unless it was passed around; now it is easily shared. Knowing people beforehand will help to break down barriers that may have existed before.

I have said this many times before, that education is based upon relationships. While people often look at social media is just “technology” we have to see how proper use can help really bring our world together. If we are proactive in the way we work with kids using social media, there is no limit to what we can do.

26 comments for “Why Social Media Can and Is Changing Education

  1. March 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    It amazes me that people still don’t undersatnd and/or see what “social media” can be. That twitter is so much more than “I just ate lunch.”

    Because of my PLN, due largely to Twitter, I am so much more current and aware than my average peers. had a brilnat conversation with another AP about the “Waiting for Suoerman” movie, based soley on what I read and opinions shared by my PLN. I am able to speak on an informed basis, have access to articles, reseach, opinions and passion from ALL over the world. What conference or professional development seminar provides THAT?

  2. March 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Great article, totally agree. All five points you make are great, points two and three in particular for me are hugely important and I think your choice of words for number four is worth commenting on: ‘amplify passion’. I like that. Social networking can’t create passion or even develop it, but it can increase what already exists.

    Nice one, cheers.

  3. March 26, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Regarding #5, on how being open is changing education:

    Teachers are forced to be more reflective when they are open. When I started to open my classroom and share what I was doing with parents, and the world, I thought more about what I was doing and why I was doing it. My practice changed.

    As I connected with more and more educators online, I began to learn from them in ways that I was not learning even in my own building. I was working with some amazing educators, but I wasn’t having ‘learning conversations’ with them on my own personal time lines, feeding my passion for learning when and where I wanted to learn. I noticed the same desire for ‘learning on your own time’ by my students who were contributing to our class wiki at all hours of the night, and also at lunchtime at our school (when they should not have had access to computers). Our learning practice had changed.

    Being “open” unintentionally changes us so that doing things in new ways isn’t just a possibility, but a necessity and a convenience. To me these are two key point in why social media is changing education:
    Necessity – Being open makes us more reflective educators.
    Convenience – Being open creates opportunities for anytime learning, beyond the confines of classrooms and schools.

  4. March 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    These are very positive thoughts about social media in education, especially true for self-motivated adult learners. To utilize it in k12 education, not only students need teachers’ monitor , also teachers need to learn how to lead their students to benefit from the current social networking without having some drawbacks.

  5. Andre Grant
    August 8, 2011 at 4:41 am

    I believe the author of the article is right in his summation that many social sites are free, reduce isolation and creates interconnectedness between students and teachers. Collaborative work between teachers, parents and students can be fostered through these sites and the comments made the members of the group, especially David Truss support this idea.

    Teachers can get feedback from studentts on each day’s lesson, make themselves available to correct misconceptions, and most importantly stay connected with parents in an effort to build collabrative and fruitful relationships.

  6. Daniel
    August 10, 2011 at 12:16 am

    While there are advantages to using computers in classroom, there is also the question of what education is and what it should consist of.

    There is a danger that, like in politics, etc., grandiose objectives are set but unattainable.

    e.g. 3 – looks great on paper – but how is this acheived through a computer? I mean really, how is clicking a button going to change the physical world in which we live? It is claimed that connecting breaks down barriers, yet there is very little/no empirical research to back up such a claim.

    5 – ‘making schools more open’ – or making us answerable to people who don’t understand the teaching profession? Teachers go through training, study and higher education, like any other profession, yet are often questioned at every turn by parents, the media etc. No-one would ever think of questioning an expert in fields such as science, law, politics etc. Why do teachers have it different? Of course, there are times when this is desirable, but there is often a lack of transperancy or accountability elsewhere (management, politics etc.), why should this be the case in teaching?

    Many schools lack basic resources and simply ‘getting online’ is not the solution – more of a band-aid. Rather than focusing on gimmicks, Education should be focusing on what is to be transmitted/taught and get on with that – whatever the mode of communication

    • August 10, 2011 at 2:48 am

      Interesting comments Daniel. I just thought I would respond.

      On the idea of three, have you not seen people have more understanding and involvement in other areas of the world because they can actually hear voices from that area? I know you are asking for empirical data, but I have seen through my own experience students more involved in helping others across the world through the use of social media. They feel a connection that we were not able to replicate when we were students.

      The reason that schools should be more open is that parent involvement in the learning process of a child is one of the highest factors for improved student achievement. Parents can not be in schools all the time, so we need to give them opportunities to understand what is going on to help them reinforce these opportunities with their children. It is not about criticism, it is about improving learning. There is nothing in my teaching that I am scared of sharing so why not make it transparent?

      Your idea of “gimmicks” in education is off. The idea of using technology we have and improving conditions is what is happening in many schools. You compare teaching to other professions, but other professions do the same thing. They use technology to improve their product.

      As you are quick to critique, I am curious what you think should be taught as you alluded to in your last paragraph? The most important thing that social media brings to us is each other. If we have a stronger connection to each other in the world, would that not improve the world for all. It may sound idealistic, but I guess that I choose to have extremely high expectations of what I think our schools are able to do.

  7. Ahmed
    September 18, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I totally agree with all the points discussed in article. Social media is definitely changing the education and can be used efficiently in higher education also. Higher education has not found the right niche for Twitter yet but it has great potential in the future.

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