Is Social Networking Right for School?

According to Jack Molisani and his article “Social networking for you” “Our job is not to write user manuals and sales brochures. Our job is to get user-optimized content to people when they need it and where they want it. In other words, follow your audience.”

What if my audience ranges in age from 15 to 18 years old? What if my audience is already physically captive in my room? What if my audience is my Literature of the Land class or my American Studies class? What if I’m my audience’s teacher? Do I still have to follow them? Yes I do.

And that’s a tough task because they come from so many different backgrounds and are going in so many different directions with so many different talents, concerns, questions, and challenges that it’s hard to follow them all.

Ah, but perhaps social networking will actually make it easier—or at least more successful since that’s what so many of them are familiar with anyway.

Sure, Molisani is talking about social networking to advance a career or business, but many of the arguments he uses make sense in education too.

The ease of finding information. Right. So why would students want to listen to a teacher lecture about the difference between alliteration, assonance, and consonance when they’d be able to google the terms and find definitions and examples in about 45 seconds if they ever found a need to? Since students don’t need help finding such information anymore, teachers need to find ways to push students to put the information and technology tools they have to good use.

Ask a friend. Molisani suggests that web sites should allow people to interact since they may have valuable information to share and will find a way to talk about a product anyway. The most engaging classrooms encourage student interaction and input. Wouldn’t it be nice if students could interact in an extension of that classroom (the web) after the bell rings. Teachers might as well help provide the structure for that.

Molisani says, “You are the master of your career.” Students could become the masters (or at least very active advocates) of their education too. Rather than wondering where the teacher’s plan is going, the internet offers students the opportunity to have some say in the direction a lesson takes. If the curriculum states that everyone has to learn how to write persuasively, why do all students have to show that the same way and to the same audience. The answer is they don’t, and social networking on the internet gives students the opportunity to reach an audience that may be more meaningful–outside the walls of the school.

Since students are already so good at social networking in the halls and after school, why not harness their natural talents for class-related purposes too?

About Rob_Henseler

Rob has been teaching high school English and Language Arts for 20 years. When he's not at school, he enjoys making and listening to music, woodworking, canoeing, and hands-on traditional skills.

Posted on September 24, 2012, in Social Media, Society, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Great post–don’t forget to categorize it though! And since Stout is a laptop campus, I definitely try to harness that energy you describe by asking them to tweet their reactions to the readings. See for more info 🙂

  2. Your post really got me thinking about how social media can be helpful in the classroom and beyond. I teach introductory writing at a technical college, and many of my students are between 17-20 years old. However, I do have, on occassion, older students. What is most fascinating, although perhaps not surprising, is the difference in research ability. The younger group, as you note, can google informatin quickly and find out a ton of defeinitions/facts. But, that same group has never visited the college’s physical or virtual library. Oppositely, older students are more familiar with using a library to do research. Because the younger group is quick with technology, they learn how to find books/journals with ease. What becomes more difficult is trying to explain why we need to use scholarly sources from the library rather than just googling things.

    Although I do not use social media in class, there will be a blackboard component (D2L at the tech.colleges) in the near future that asks students to particiapte in discussions similar to these. As you suggested, since people are good at social networking and do it all the time, why not try to utilize it?

  3. I don’t know much about teaching. However I am thinking: maybe nowadays teaching is not anymore about teaching our kids knowledge or information. Maybe we should teach them more critical thinking. Children, young adults need to know how to distinguish between good and bad information, how to recognize it, where to find the good one, how to use it for what. Maybe it is going more into the Montessori approach. (wiki says: “Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development, as well as technological advancements in society”). Don’t know if this makes any sense though, because I know there are time limits and classes sizes that will make this approach difficult to follow.

  4. It is an approach that is difficult to follow, except that students are more engaged when we combine the independence, technology, and the guidelines or limits. I’m more familiar with the traditional content, but students aren’t buying it anymore, so I’ll do what I can to meet them where they are. It’s challenging, but it makes the days go pretty fast.

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