Online and social media platforms have increasingly become an important part of the learning landscape for students around the world. How do they fit into these global trends?
What Are Cultural Norms For Online Personal And Community Learning
These days, teachers are concerned about the rise of online personal and social learning – and they’re doing their best to help their students keep their digital presence in line with the real world. No one would argue that a good online social presence is an absolute necessity for success in many aspects of modern life. According to a new report by Edtech Social, more than 100 million K-12 students around the world now participate in personal learning apps.
While some teachers might claim that kids aren’t interested in Facebook, it’s clear that even young people find a need for digital social media to stay connected. In our interconnected world, students need the courage to tell the school where they think their learning lives are heading (without becoming hatefully ill-treated if they don’t have a go at the teachers for explaining themselves).
But, there are other factors that need to be considered. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, before you dismiss, “well, let’s talk about the basics,” it’s important to find out what information your students are seeking, and are comfortable sharing online. Teachers and parents should be careful that they only share things that aren’t damaging to their student’s overall knowledge and development. That’s what’s making so many schools nervous about using virtual educators, online conversation tools, and other social media.
Back in March, NBC News reported on what school administrators across the nation are really worried about: creating a healthy internet for learning. Their survey revealed that districts are so nervous about online communication and privacy that many are now considering restricting their kids’ social media accounts completely. That’s an extreme concern, especially since it’s hard to imagine Facebook as a productive place for learning in and of itself. Still, policies that continue to keep teachers in the dark about what their students are doing online will do far more damage than good.
Many schools are leery of online social media because they think it’s all about culture. While the modern workplace has often been criticized for being about culture, it’s also been credited for fostering openness and transparency. Without this commitment to open communication, we risk turning teacher-student interactions into lonely, isolated cocoons.
But these fears aren’t something that should be ignored. “There’s more of a cultural disruption than a technological disruption happening in schools, which is opening up children’s digital learning to everyone,” says Marisa Atkinson, managing director of the American Psychological Association’s Healthy Students program. Atkinson has worked to develop curricula that foster a strong relationship between teachers and students, and these programs are designed to ensure that all students have equal opportunities to learn. “Fostering that student-teacher relationship is the beginning and the end point, not the journey,” she says.
Students need to know that there’s a person in charge of their own education at home. That teacher must also be included in the conversation online, even if they don’t want to engage in virtual personal learning projects in the same way. A good example of this partnership is Smarter Balanced’s Validation Campaign, which challenged teachers across the country to use digital strategies to evaluate and communicate with their students on Smarter Balanced testing days.
These virtual social networks can be a useful tool, especially in collaborative learning environments that emphasize a personal approach to learning. As a high school English teacher in the St. Mary’s School District in Peconic, New York, I’m concerned about how social media can detract from learning overall. “I think people are mixing online activities with offline activity, which can push students out of the loop with the text and writing assignments,” I told The New York Times.
It’s true. Some students like to check their phone every five minutes for “noise.” Some like to obsessively post on Facebook. Some use social media to withdraw from it.
There’s nothing wrong with social media for education. Students need the opportunity to interact with their peers online, especially for nonfiction and customized learning. Part of the problem with social media is how many people depend on it for this purpose, both for learning and to stay connected to family and friends. That’s one of the things that makes schools nervous about the current social media environment.
But simply requiring students to delete social media accounts, computer passwords, and email addresses is going to do far more harm than good. While some online social networks can help students learn to interact with others offline, most don’t work to foster a robust communication and learning process. They can only work as a supplement to old-fashioned classrooms, not as a replacement.
The situation is, of course, even more precarious for teachers who have to comply with policies that punish them for any online behavior that some don’t find safe or appropriate. This can place teachers in two different roles: that of bad cop/good cop, or being brave co-conspirators or fearful collaborators. One of those roles can feel like a dream, but both can have severe and often negative consequences