When looking at social media, I took a moment to reflect on my first experiences with various networks. I had a MySpace account, I don’t think that anything that I had posted on it “about me” was true. I was still nervous about putting myself out there on the internet, where anybody could find me. I have had accounts with many other different sites, some that have come and gone, some that probably still exist somewhere but are rarely used.
I created my Facebook account in 2007 and, at that time, was one of the very first people in my school to get one. I know this from the confused looks I received from my peers when I asked them about Facebook. A childhood friend of mine had told me I should join the network, that it was the next big thing, and so I did. Facebook was 100% me and I definitely overshared (sometimes I hate seeing the “On This Day” posts….cue a major face palm!). Over time, I have limited some of what I share, I no longer update my status multiple times a day, I try to only share the important things, and I filter what I share and like based upon those that I am connected with on the site….more on this later.
I joined Twitter my first year of university in Alec’s ECMP 355 course. It was so different for me to experience and it took me a LONG time to decide that I like the platform (as in, I only really started enjoying using it during the Winter 2017 term for ECI 834)). It was too random for me to fully embrace the way it shared information.
When thinking about teaching in the digital age, I have to admit that I do not really know any other way. In internship I created a Wikispace with all of my assignments. Shortly after starting in my first (and current) position I created a classroom Facebook page and encouraged students and parents to connect. For me, many of the forms of social media have always been there. The major change that I have seen in my teaching career is the shift towards a focus of including these digital tools and various forms of social media into the classroom in a meaningful way.
Even though I may be considered a digital native in teaching, it does not mean that I do not have concerns over social media in schools. I worry about cyberbullying, about inappropriate content, and about not knowing how or when to interact with others online. I also worry about some of the things that I am guilty of: oversharing and sharing information that may not be safe to share (age, address, full name, etc.). I have many fears about having students online but none of them overshadow my strong belief that students today need to learn and understand how to use the internet and various forms of social media to access the knowledge they seek and, as Pavan Arora states, students need to learn how to apply the vast amount of knowledge that they can access.
I really resonated with Michael Wesch‘s comment that we need to be focusing more on what types of questions our students are asking as opposed to what and how are we teaching content. I think that this is a critical aspect of teaching in the digital age and have had many students ask me over my career “why am I learning this if I can just Google it?” or “why can’t I just use the app?” and each time I have stepped back and had to look at how I am teaching and how it can be more meaningful for my students. Sometimes, it comes down to a simple, yet unfortunate, “because that is what the curriculum asks you to do to earn the credit”, but often these questions cause me to come up with a new way of covering a topic, it pushes me to encourage students to come up with the content themselves through inquiry, a tactic that I enjoy using in my math class. By allowing my students to create the knowledge for themselves, they gain an ownership of their learning which helps them buy in to the other concepts that may not lend themselves to this as easily.
By using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, we are helping our students learn to connect and interact with others from around the world in a professional manner. There is a definite need for ensuring that our students have a deep understanding of digital citizenship before embarking on this experience but, without allowing them to experience the open internet, I would argue that there is no way to be sure they understand what it means to be a digital citizen. When looking at integrating various types of technology, including social media, into our classrooms, Shelby mentions that we need to ensure that we are integrating the technology for authentic reasons as students can easily recognize when we are implementing something for the sake of implementing it. John Seely Brown and Richard Adler state that Web 2.0 is about connections, not just about information. I feel that this is the niche that social media can play in our classrooms. Brown and Adler also touch on research that demonstrates that a social aspect of education is essential and that students that meet in study groups tend to see greater success in their courses, something that is echoed in Jacque‘s mention of a student who regularly attends study groups. To push this to the limit, there is the case of a group of students taking notes simultaneously on a Google Doc and the interesting questions it raises about the importance of the course if these notes could be accessed without attending or could be forwarded to the next cohort of students.
Where do you fall on the scale of digital native to digital immigrant? Do you have a variety of different social media accounts? Which ones, if any, would you feel comfortable integrating into your classroom with either your personal or a professional account?