Welcome to 21 Things for the 21st Century Educator!
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I read a great blog post this morning by Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) called the “12 Most Important Things to Know about Kids Today.” Quite honestly, I needed to be reminded of this. There are a lot of negative stereotypes about kids and it’s easy to get caught up in them. Personally, it helps to be reminded of just how amazing these kids can be when given the chance. I think it stresses the importance of making our classrooms and learning relevant for our students. That’s a hard thing to do some times but well worth it.
It would be foolish to suggest all students were mini-Hemmingways in waiting until Facebook, Twitter and texting wandered onto the scene and corrupted them. Social media didn’t cause those deficiencies, but it does display them for all to see. Those are the sites many students visit and interact when they aren’t in school. Which is what makes the supposed tension between learning, literacy, and social media so intriguing. The frustration many students express with school is that it doesn’t apply to their world. In my opinion, schools have an obligation to make learning relevant to the real world. If we choose to pretend that these forms of communication and media don’t exist or aren’t important to them, we force students into a dichotomy of choosing between “School World” or “Their World”. If students have to pick one or the other, “their world” wins every time. But why can’t educators find ways to promote literacy using the tools that are already shown to engage students? Why can’t we help students see how “school” prepares them for the “real world” by using “their world” to engage them? Now let me be blunt. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to use social media in schools just as there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to use a paper and pencil. What I am advocating is using the social media tools available today in a monitored, educational setting to help make literacy relevant for students.
Here are a few examples of educators and students using social media tools the right way to promote literacy.
Can students learn to read, write and express their ideas without social media – of course! But schools have an obligation to be relevant for students and social media is an important part of their world. In the second decade of the 21st century there are amazing tools available that, when used the right way, can inspire students to see how their world really can prepare them for the real world.
Dan Spencer is currently the Educational Technology Coordinator at the Jackson County ISD. Before that he taught chemistry and physics and coached cross country and track at Michigan Center High School. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or on Twitter at @runfardvs. Feel free to continue the conversation on his blog www.techtoolsforteachers.edublogs.org