Teachers who resist using social media in the classroom are stripping their students of an essential component of their future success. Avoiding – or worse, banning – social media platforms for students prohibits them from being successful professionals in fields like accounting, chemistry, the arts and more
Why so declarative? Because social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs) have become the fabric of how the world communicates. Yes, traditional methods of connecting and collaborating still exist – you can still pick up the phone or write a letter – but you can also route messages or share ideas with clients, colleagues, vendors and others using collaboration platforms, social networks, wikis and more.
In today’s business environment, someone lacking not just an understanding but a working knowledge of social media and social networking tools is at a competitive disadvantage. Not preparing our young people – whether in elementary, secondary or post-secondary education environments – to not only have but also excel with these skills means we are failing in our mission as educators.
[Read about a school in Silicon Valley that has chosen not to use technology in its classrooms here.]
In May 2011, the state of Missouri banned teachers from communicating with their students on the popular social networking site Facebook. While Governor Jay Nixon altered the bill to the point of essentially repealing the ban, all of the state’s school systems have been asked to create their own social networking policies by March 2012.
While this may seem like a victory for the teachers and students – not to mention social media – it’s only a baby step in the right direction since many school districts will likely decide that social networking is not an appropriate way for teachers and students to communicate.
For any school district that does outlaw teacher-student communication through social media channels, this could mean teachers will not be able to:
And each of those just scratch the surface.
What the state of Missouri might have done, if it had made an informed decision that was in its students’ best interests, would have been to require teachers to communicate and collaborate with their students on any relevant social channel.
Teachers can share instructions, links to online resources and answer class questions on Twitter. They can create Facebook groups around classes, subject matters or even events that allow the students to better connect with each other and share ideas to enhance everyone’s experience and learning. They can create dashboards of information using RSS feeds that give students robust learning opportunities as supplements to any text books or in-class learning.
Not to mention teachers engaging with their students on social networks also puts another responsible adult in the students’ social graph, enhancing their safety to a degree. Time spent collaborating and learning is less time spent with the not-so-respectable elements the internet has to offer.
At the end of the day, resistance to social media in the classroom will put students at a disadvantage in the short and long term. Administrators and educators everywhere owe it to their students to embrace this world and the opportunities it offers, rather than failing to do their own homework and see the possibilities.
The biggest thing holding back legislators in Missouri, administrators who still ban access to Facebook and Twitter in schools, and teachers who are skeptical about social media in the classroom is their own education. They need to understand what social media tools are, what they can do and how they can be safely and wisely implemented in the education environment.
In short, our educators must learn before they can teach.
Let’s hope they catch on before the gap they’re creating between their students and ones that are being taught how to employ strong and safe social media skills is too far to overcome.
Jason Falls is an author, speaker and CEO. His company, Social Media Explorer, creates education and information products for those wishing to better understand and deploy digital and social media marketing. He is also a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Family Literacy.
All statements and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and not of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or NBC News.