By Sarah Brooks*
Education & Tech
Where the world of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr intersects school age children who are hard at work in the classroom is a place of contradiction, debate, busy mouths and fingers and of vast overarching potential. While some may argue from the dark side of social media as it applies to students, which speaks from a place which touts distraction and lack of focus as the negative influences of media upon the school, the real power comes from the positive impact of social media upon the classroom. When the assets of social media are reined in and harnessed to act as a boon which aids students in their progression of knowledge, even the banes of internet media can be used as tools to connect modern day students with the technology of their time.
Let us take the indisputable king of social media, Facebook, and examine a few ways in which the site may be used as a beacon of education rather than a powerhouse of distraction. While many schools have chosen to ban the social networking site from their in house computers, students with their elbows deep in computer skills will no doubt find a tunnel or other way to get through to the site which provides them with an online identity, friends, photos, games, music and videos. So the question of whether Facebook is a presence in the student's lives is not the issue; the heart of the future of Facebook as it applies to students is maneuvering its influence from a position of fallen focus to an educational tool. When students or teachers form Facebook groups, a virtual space is created for a forum setting that can make way for after school discussions, extracurricular work, and online collaboration among students. Not only are students more likely to use a resource like Facebook because they are already plugged into it for their social lives, but they are more likely to extend their classroom time on Facebook school groups when working on homework or a project with their classmates.
The same is true for Twitter. Take, for example, students who choose to follow a hand picked collection of their role models, influences, and educational authorities on the site which allows for short bursts of news, announcements and text. When Twitter is utilized by a student who wishes to keep up with their favorite authors, teachers, musicians, or artists, they can gain insight and deepened awareness of what is going on in the lives of their personal or educational influences.
However, Twitter catch-up should be a game always played after the homework is done at the end of the school day. Most of the problems with distraction that spring up between students and their favorite websites are based on social media taking valuable time away from homework or classroom time. While it is likely necessary to keep student's hands off access to Facebook and Twitter during classroom hours when they are expected to be in full attention mode, educators must remember that the social media hubs do have their place and can help make books and learning both cool and popular in the eyes of students.
Sparknotes, for example, is a social and educational site dedicated to students and by students who are searching for user-friendly supplement to their classes. Sparknotes supports both Facebook and Twitter which gives students a way to access bite size bits of news about online learning guides, testing, aids, and book notes. Educators who choose to utilize the resources of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr rather than shunning these valuable social media tools to the back of the closet not only gain favor in the eyes of their students, but ensure that they are keeping up with the proverbial Joneses in terms of education and technology.(*) Sarah Brooks writes from Freepeoplesearch.org. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to: brooks.sarah23 [at] gmail [dot] com
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