Schools can use social networking

Schools should bring social networking into the classroom, argues Nicholas Bramble in Slate Magazine. Afraid of cyber-stalking, harassment and online pedophiles, many schools are trying to ban social media. That’s short-sighted, writes Bramble.

Social networks can also pull in students who are otherwise disengaged, because they draw on kids’ often intense interest in finding new ways to communicate with one another.

He suggests “students could talk about what they’re doing on Facebook and company, map out the ways they’re making connections with one another, and share videos and software they’ve created.”

Teachers can manage the project by selecting the best content and conversations, and incorporating it into other parts of the curriculum. If a student created an entry on Wikipedia for a local band or sports team, other students could work on revising the entry and building it into a larger local history project. The audience for school projects need no longer be one hurried teacher.

“Slamming the classroom door on social media just makes the virtual world more of a waste land,” Bramble writes.

Too blue sky?

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  1. Deirdre Mundy says:

    When I was in High School, we used to play games on our graphing calculators. Obviously, instead of banning calculator games uin math class, the teachers should have used ‘snake’ and ‘skier’ to teach the class……


    There’s nothing wrong with letting kids’ recreation stay recreation. And it’s important for teens to learn that there’s a time for working and a time for playing… If they facebook and text and twitter constantly at their adult jobs, they won’t HAVE jobs very long….

  2. Diana Senechal says:

    Bramble makes passing mention of the idea that “the classroom does serve as a sanctuary, sometimes, from petty concerns and conflicts.” But he does not take this idea seriously enough. The classroom should be a sanctuary not only from petty concerns and conflicts, but from distractions and certain kinds of socializing. It should be one place where quiet thought is possible. Students should learn that they have choices: that they do not have to be plugged into a network all the time.

  3. john thompson says:

    Somehow we must learn to do contradictory things. We can’t be afraid on banning certain activities from the sanctuary of the classroom. After we’ve made it clear that there are some timeless principles and rules, then we must incorporate new technologies. How you do that is tricky.

    But, in sports we manage to set firm limits, outlawing certain activities, strictly enforcing certain boundaries but teaching referees and players how we will deal with the shades of grey. (for instance, offensive linemen can do some holding when protecting the quarterback, keeping hands up and in, and when the holding is fleeting, but when reaching out and grabbing that always draws a flag.)

    Unfortunately, in education we tend to have theories dumped on us and we get continual pressure to just lower our standards. I, for one, would be much more open to digital innovations if teachers and administrators were on one page in banning activities that simply should not be in the classroom.

  4. Much too blue sky. Way too much blue sky. A few thoughts come to mind.

    I have observed in more than one place where my wife and I have lived that the city or some organization decides to set up a “teen center”, or whatever they might want to call it. The reasoning is always basically the same. Give teens a place of their own where they can do what they enjoy. It’ll get them off the streets. They can do what they’re going to do anyway, but in a safe environment. Typically some time is spent in planning, space is rented in some good location, and the center opens with some fanfare. Typically the participation by teens is pretty low. Such ventures sometimes last year after year, but they never seem to live up to their hype. The are always at best marginal to the life of the young.

    Remember CB radio? Maybe kids will be interested in social networking with that? Maybe that’s a way to tap into kids’ “often intense interest in finding new ways to communicate with one another”. You can definitely communicate with CB radio. And kids are creative and all that. Maybe there’s a missed opportunity. Or maybe not. I go with the “maybe not”. Fads often appeal to many people, of many ages, but fads often disappear with little trace.

    So if teen centers don’t seem to do it, and CB radio looks dead, what else is there, besides facebook? How about tapping into that venerable tradition of youth, and perhaps any age, simply known as “hanging out”? Maybe we can somehow amble up to the gang on some street corner, engage in a little jive talk, or whatever is appropriate in the world of today, and then bend the action to education. Perhaps, as Bramble says, “Teachers can manage the project by selecting the best content and conversations, and incorporating it into other parts of the curriculum.”

    Perhaps, but I’m not going to try it. I wish schools would just stick with teaching things like English, history, math, science, etc.

    Definitely way too blue sky, in my humble opinion.

  5. I have taught with computers in the classroom for almost 21 years.

    From the very beginning my students would come in and ask if we were going to play games on the computer. “NO, we’re going to use the computer for productivity.” Then I went on to teach word processing, spreadsheet, database, and desktop publishing.

    Now I use the computer to teach manipulation of text and photos. web design and videography. We still don’t play games except for a few special days when I let the students choose what they want to do. Funny thing, many times on those days I will hear the lament, “this is boring, when are we going to do some real work.” Kids. They are so funny.

  6. I was doing a parent/child technology class in the computer lab at my sons (6th grade) school. I hit the drop down on the browser and the second url in history was

  7. Yes, Diana. Postman writes about this.

    The classroom should compete with popular culture, not search for ways to compromise with it

    When I introduce something that students know they’ll like, I’ve made a mistake.

  8. If they’re disengaged, they shouldn’t be there. Entertainment of this type will not help them to become engaged in learning.

  9. A much better use would be for teachers, schools, and districts to connect with parents.

  10. I think Nicholas Bramble must be an ed school prof or at least have covered education sufficiently to have gotten familiar with tenets of promoting edu-crap.

    There are the charming vignettes signifying nothing. There are the appeals and threats to the conceits of the professionals. There are the vague benefits which are, at best tangential to or supportive of what ought to be the core mission of the education system, along with equally vague implementation ideas. There’s the lack of any cost-benefit analysis – it’s just such a splendid idea that no consideration ought to be given to what necessarily has to be put aside to use this new phenomenon.

    Also, there’s the ironic description of the classroom as a sanctuary. I suppose it’s possible to come up with other sanctuaries into which people are driven under force of law but in general I wouldn’t associate coercion with sanctuary.

  11. Michael E. Lopez, Esq. says:

    “[S]tudents could talk about what they’re doing on Facebook and company, map out the ways they’re making connections with one another, and share videos and software they’ve created.”

    Yes, they could.

    On their own time.

  12. Cranberry says:

    My eldest made a video in school, for an assignment. The amount of time devoted to this project was far in excess of any educational value of said project. I also wonder if Mr Bramble has ever had the pleasure of reading teens’ Facebook contributions.

    Tech tools can be used well, but they must be judiciously. Just using a tech tool does not render an activity more valuable or educational.

  13. Oh, absolutely. All teens need a class in how to use Facebook more creatively. Maybe we could set up an A-P college prep course in Tweeting & Texting. An even higher level class could cover photoshopping images to get the best shots for sexting. Oh, there are so many unexplored educational opportunities!!

    Why do so many people continue to promote the idea that teens just need MORE entertainment in their lives? You know, if you lived at Disneyland, Space Mountain would get real old, real fast. Kids need a sense of worth, a sense of contributing to something that is important. We devalue our kids when all we allow them to do is be entertained. There is value in work done well, and we’d be wise as a society to teach our children that.

  14. I agree that social networking should be part of the educational experience as the global audience and way of working as a group can be very motivating. Where I disagree is in using the, for want of a better description, the “public and open” sites like facebook and myspace. These are not appropriate for a variety of reasons – not all e-safety ones – for classroom use.

    It is better to have a social learning network where all school or class pupils can be members and where these is complete transparency of users: you know the each user is who he or she says they are. That is why I set up LL4Schools so that schools can start to use a social network for educational purposes safely. LL4Schools is not for their social lives (they will still use their SN for that) but for school work and learning: which is as it should be.


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