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Teaching Through Social Media: Can It Work?

Texting. Twitter. Facebook. All these and more keep the attention of the majority of today’s hip and happening youth, who can barely keep their hands away from their smartphones, tablet computers, even music players with wi-fi capability. Today’s generation is wired to the core, and teachers would do well to take note of this phenomenon.

If traditional teaching methods dictate that the way to get students to listen up and take note is to take away their toys, researchers – particularly at the Knight Foundation and The First Amendment Center – are taking on a more “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach. Last year, the center launched a teacher’s guide for using social media with the sole purpose of teaching kids how to understand the First Amendment better – and it’s working. Findings suggest that with the growth of social media use, so has the appreciation for the basic American right.

“There is a connection between the media students use and the resulting attitudes they have about the First Amendment,” said Ken Dautrich, a University of Connecticut professor who oversaw and authored the 2011 survey.”

They also found that these students are not learning these concepts in the classroom, but on their own, by using social media tools and web publishing themselves. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter aren’t simply used to connect with friends and update each other on the latest Starbucks coffee flavour – on these sites students are able to find, disseminate, and broadcast pertinent information, which is, in a way, a better kind of learning in itself: self-motivated, hands-on, and completely voluntary.

The only hindrance to teachers in this respect seems to be purely institutional. The internet is, after all, possibly the last remaining free ground on the planet, and censorship on it is a daunting to near-impossible task. Teachers seem to be hesitant in embracing social media fully because schools are terrified of dissenting opinions that don’t agree with the official school position, which will result in nothing but punishment for everybody.

That said, teaching using social media should be treated with a special kind of care. It is not necessary to completely write off Facebook and Twitter as legitimate teaching tools just because of the existing loopholes in privacy and professionalism. Charol Shakeshaft of the New York Times suggests that keeping a separate teaching Facebook account to reach out to students is a good way to start. Making Twitter posts private is also a good way of encouraging free discussion and engagement without being in danger of having inappropriate content traced back to the educator.

Social media can be used for both good and evil. As long as its use is open, transparent, and safe, with clear goals in mind, an educator is using it appropriately.

Author Bio:- George is a marketing manager for Cardprinting.us, an online provider of plasticcards and keytagprinting services. He is also a part-time music teacher who also runs a tutorial service for elementary students during weekends.

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