“The Classroom Outside of the Classroom”
As educators, we must plug into what is going on outside of the school walls. Our future generations are more technology savvy than the educators are. According to Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams’ book, Flip Your Classroom, today’s students grew up with Internet access, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and a host of other digital resources (Bergmann & Sams, p.20). We must catch up to this rapid change in both society and education. Bergmann and Sams found that many of our younger generations report that they can typically be found doing their math homework while texting their friends, IMing on Facebook, and listening to music all at the same time. Students were born to multitask and continue to perfect it as they are expanding their cyber knowledge.
The job as an educator is to educate, teach, model, interact, explore, question, research, and most importantly continue to better educate themselves. In order to successfully touch each of these steps, educators must be willing to have an open mind and change their ways of teaching as the world around them changes. According to John Dewey’s book, Experience and Education, the teachers business is to see that the occasion is taken advantage of (Dewey, p.71). Educators must have their student’s best interest in mind and constantly find the best way to teach them and prepare them for their futures through positive experience. In order to do this, we must take advantage of the free access we have to social media networks.
Technology is booming and has been booming since the first invented CD, television, computer, or game. Technology has continued to grow and through that we have invented social media networking. Social networking is not something we should be afraid of or shy away from. It is the center of our communication and the language of our students. We must tune in to their language and learn how to speak it. We can look at social media the way that we look at a new textbook. We must be excited to learn it and become efficient in it. We must be willing to take the time and become knowledgeable with the networks.
Why is networking so important? Networking is defined as to interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, esp. to further one’s career (Hacker, 2011). This means that it would be detrimental to take social networking away from students in the classroom. In order for educators to prepare a student and set them up for success, we as educators must continue our own education and what skills a future student will need to acquire. If it is to help one’s future career, shouldn’t we be the first ones on board? That is what we do!
In almost every business in America today, they use some form of technology. Almost all major colleges and universities have done away with paper applications. Most require you to submit your application online and will take away any fees that they applied for mailing. The same idea has become popular for businesses seeking employment applications. In our world, it is harder and harder to land a job if you do not know someone in the company or don’t know how to efficiently use technology. How can we push students to attend college or the importance of writing and networking for a job if we are not properly teaching them how to use these technologies in the school? We must remember that a lot of colleges and universities use social networking tools for online assignments and homework links. We use one currently; UMW CANVAS. If we do not prepare them how to use these social media outlets correctly by banning them everywhere, they will be blind sighted when they move onto a higher education.
Not all social networking is “bad”. When the topic of cyber bullying is brought up, we must realize that social networking sites are not being used as the classroom itself, but strictly as a learning tool. How we would use this tool in a classroom would be the same way we would use or assign an assignment. For example, if I decide to use LinkedIn in my classroom, I would be monitoring that the specific tool is being used the way it should for the lesson and would be walked through as a class to assure that the lesson gets taught. An educator would monitor the screens as students work just as they would with using a pair of scissors, making sure that students are on task and using everything properly.
In my current secondary business classroom, my students each have their own computer to use. The computers are facing me at all times so I can monitor what they are working on. I can also pull up all of their screens individually to watch what they are clicking on. This allows me as an educator to keep a close eye on my students progress and if any distraction were to occur. This also goes hand-in-hand with students and what they are allowed to access. I have worked closely with the technology group at my school to ensure that inappropriate sites are blocked for students use. We are only allowing social networking sites that will benefit our students and not ultimately detriment their successes.
During my continual studies at The University of Mary Washington, I was required to take an instructional technologies class. This class has helped prepare me for the fast changes of social media and how it can be used as a tool in the classroom. Just because we are familiar with the social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, doesn’t mean we have to use those specific sites. We can gear our focus towards educational social networking sites that use social media networking to teach students and prepare them for their futures. By using these social networking sites, we are helping to create a student’s profile for future job searches and we eliminate any acts of cyber bullying. There are so many options of social networking outlets and more are constantly being created. If you are worried about a specific outlet, don’t use it! There are tons to choose from that will fit your lesson needs.
During my time at The University of Mary Washington, I learned that there are endless opportunities on these educational social networking sites. One in particular was an opportunity to create a customized search engine through Google. This opportunity opened a lot of doors for my lesson plans in the classroom. Through this customized search engine, I can facilitate where my students have access on the Internet and what they are participating in. I can conduct a lesson on social media networking and have all other sites blocked for students use other than the search engine and its contents that I have provided. Within that search engine, I have allowed different social media avenues that pertain to my lesson plan and can be used for educational networking. This eliminates distractions, cyber bullying, Internet surfing, and partial attention. I can modify it at any time and use it multiple times. Students become familiar with my URL address and can access it from any device. Now students can use it for homework, group discussions on social networks, online tests and quizzes and/or any other lesson plan I provide.
Monitoring students also comes with how do we keep their attention from distraction? Students have a natural ability to lose focus from time to time. Anything can be a distraction, from a student sneezing, to the accent a teacher has when saying a specific word. We cannot solely place social media as the only form of distraction. In my opinion, I believe that it will help students stay focused because it is touching what they are interested in. Educators should still maintain the rules of their classroom at all times. For example, if cell phone use is not to be used in your classroom. Do not allow it to be used and take disciplinary action as you have stated in your syllabus, when needed.
I am familiar with the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) in the classroom. It has been implemented in our school for the students and teachers alike. I find it an awesome tool for students to be able to use their device to better educate themselves. I have students who use it to take notes and students who use their technology to present to the class on current events. It is a great tool because it allows for the student to have their subject material on them in the classroom and when they are out of school. I treat BYOT as I would with any other material a student uses in my class. If it is a time for instruction, they must have their materials put away until I say it is okay. This helps me to control the situations in my class and ensure that I am fully monitoring my classroom for any distractions that may arise.
Unfortunately, yes, we cannot control cyber bulling outside of the school and after students are home just as we cannot control physical bullying outside of school. However, what we can control is teaching students how to properly use these media outlets in the school. By presenting this skill set, we will ultimately set them up on how to use these outlets outside of the school. By not incorporating these media outlets in the classroom, we are giving students the free reign outside of the classroom to teach it to themselves. We as educators must grab this issue before it is too late and show them the digital impact it could leave on themselves and others. Students have not been taught how to use it as an educational tool and therefore are not reaping any of its benefits or using it properly.
The University of Minnesota collected data for over six months from students, ages 16-18 in thirteen urban high schools in the Midwest. Results found that 94% of the students used Internet, 82% go online at home, and 77% had a profile on a social networking site (eNews, 2008). The students were also asked to list what they learn from using social networking sites. Technology skills and application was listed as number one, followed by creativity skills, open to new or diverse views, and communication skills (eNews, 2008). How can we ensure that students from low-income housing will receive technology devices that they can use outside of the classroom? According to research conducted from The University of Minnesota, Internet usage of teenagers from families earning $30,000 or less was at 73% (eNews, 2008). Their study consisted of students that came from families whose incomes were at or below the county median income of $25,000 or below. Many of these students were also taking part in after-school programs that aim at improving technology access for low-income youth. Their study goes against Pew Internet and American Life Project that suggest that a “digital divide” occurs where low-income students are technology impoverished (eNews, 2008).
Other opportunities exist as well, Bergmann and Sams have faced this obstacle of students not having access to internet at home. They suggest burning videos that have been shared online onto a DVD to be taken home by a student. They suggest to have uploaded sites on public access sites so all student can access it from any location (Bergmann, Sams, p. 97). Students have free access to libraries, the school after-hour computer times, and on cell phones or tablets. Another positive attribute about social media is that they are free and anyone can participate, making there no financial obligation. Bergmann and Sams also touch in their book about donated computers being rented through the school along with a lot of grant options. Educators can sign up for grants and ultimately purchase classroom sets from those grants for their students to check out and take home or use outside of the classroom. This eliminates the “digital divide” and gives each student a fair opportunity to use social media and all of its benefits.
Social media networking can and should be used in the classroom to educate our students how to properly use networking for future successes. We can monitor and facilitate their use while in the classroom to ensure that cyber bullying, partial attention, and distractions are eliminated. We can use educational social networking tools to help create professional contacts and outlets to open new or diverse views, perfect communication and language skills, and keep up with our changing world. By incorporating social media networks into the classroom lessons, we are preparing our future generations for their careers and the technology proficient world. We are introducing them to the impacts they have on digital literacy and how to learn through exploration and guiding them in answering future-orientated questions (Coffman, p. 21).
Bergmann, J., Sams, A., (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
Coffman. T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: Developing creative thinkers and information literate students. (2nd Ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. Toronto: Collier-MacMillan Canada Ltd.
eNews. (2008). Educational benefits of social networking sites. Retrieved September 23, 2013, from http://www1.umn.edu/news/features/2008f/UR_191308_REGION1.html .
Hacker. (2011). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved September 23, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20media
Schrum, L., Solomon, G. (1944). Web 2.0: How-to for educators. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.