Social Networking Sites and Teaching

November 11, 2008

In his October 4, 2008 blog entitled Facebook – an educational resource? , Doug Johnson writes “Schools DO need to teach safety and privacy with all social networking tools. If we don’t, who will?” If I was still a grade 3-8 classroom teacher I think I would set up a Ning. What a great way to teach safe and appropriate use of social networking for grades 3-8 in a safe, moderated and meaningful setting (students aren’t supposed to be on Facebook until they’re 14 anyway!) Classroom projects and assignments, resources, questions, discussions and reflections could be collected into one advertisement-free Ning.

For younger students I’d start with using the activities and resources from Kids in the Know to teach safe and appropriate internet use for younger students. This is a program supported by The Winnipeg School Division. I’d set up a classroom Twitter community for grade 1 or 2 students. When I was a grade 1 and 2 classroom teacher I would spend countless hours preparing nifty little paper booklets in a variety of motivating styles and shapes to keep the students interest in writing. It would take a lot less time and be even more motivating to students to set up a monitored Twitter network for classroom collections of writings and reflections on the occasional classroom topic or theme using school division e-mail addresses and passwords that the teacher will also know. It would be easy for a teacher to pre-teach expectations, monitor and intervene if inappropriate comments appear. Teachers could also monitor outside activity and teach students about online safety should outsiders choose to follow.

For senior high and adult students – I say let’s get all the social networking sites unblocked and allow students to use them in authentic ways for learning. So what if their private and personal lives intersect with their academic learning now and then? It’s still an engaging way to enhance literacy skills and it’s helped me lighten up and enjoy my journey into Web 2.0 a little more than I would have otherwise.

When I just reviewed my http://twitter.com/mikisew I realized it’s partly a journal of my journey into Web 2.0 over the past several weeks. I then realized that Twitter would be a fabulous tool for students to use as a starter for a journal or reflection journal when they’re working through an inquiry project.

Educational administrators and educators need to embrace social networking tools and capitalize on their popularity and potential for education – not ban them!

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