Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Social media... Not just social or for socializing - News from Joplin

Thank you to Kristin Lineberry a student in my University of San Diego Technology for Teachers Level II course for this incredible and moving insight.

Kristin said:

I will be the first to admit that I am a facebook "lurker." I have had an account for about 3 years now, and at first it was fun and amazing to reconnect with all my college and high school friends. I rarely post a status update, but I log on to facebook almost daily to read the interesting and sometimes amusing anecdotes that my facebook "friends" post. I have totally avoided twitter... not only do I not really "get it," but I just don't understand constantly sending out "tweets" about myself to an invisible audience, many of whom I don't even know! I became an avid texter only about a year ago, and I have never used skype.

If you are a high school or middle school teacher, you are aware that the majority of our students get all of this. They not only post on facebook, they "tweet", they text, they IM, they email, they skype.... and on it goes. In the "Did You Know?" video we watched this week we learned that it took TV 13 years to reach a target audience of 50 million, but that it took facebook only 2 years to reach the same. Like it or not, social media is our future and we need to learn to embrace it.

This week, Joplin, MO was hit by a horrific tornado. My husband is from a small town about 10 miles from Joplin, and my in-laws still live there. We didn't hear about the tornado on the news, we heard about it first on facebook only minutes after it happened. Within minutes, many of my husbands high school friends were posting all kinds of information on their facebook pages. We learned that phone lines were down, power was out, most cell lines were tied up, but facebook was the best way to communicate. The principal of destroyed Joplin high school even stated in a newspaper article that all communication about the school would come through facebook. And this is when I realized: social media is not just for socializing. People were looking for loved ones- others would repost the information on twitter. Many facebook sites shot up instantly with information about how to help: everything from naming missing people to helping reunite lost pets with owners.

Kay mentioned a post by a previous student in which she discussed her son and friends using facebook as a forum to discuss coursework. I thought that was pretty amazing. Social Media sites like facebook are obviously here to stay. But what place do they have in education? I know facebook is blocked at many school sites now. Should it be? I ask your opinion on this because I am really not sure.

In the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website, they mention Life and Career Skills as an important component of education. Under this heading are subtopics like: flexibility and adaptability, and social and cross-cultural skills. Critical thinking is also mentioned with communication and collaboration being an integral part of the learning process. Students can obviously communicate and collaborate in a discussion group on a page like facebook. Does this have a valid place in education today? I believe that it does. As we saw in videos and read in readings this week, the job market has changed immensely. People now do business over computer screens with partners on the other side of the globe. Technology and social media especially, has made us all closer and given us all more information. I believe that we need to start incorporating some of this into education so that students are better prepared... and they learn that social media can be for more than just socializing.

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