Are educators keeping up with cultural trends regarding teenagers and social media? Are we paying attention? When out and about shopping at local stores, attending church or out in public, what are teenagers usually doing? They are using some type of devise communicating with family and friends via twitter, Facebook, texting or through other social media. Most teenagers have a phone or similar devise stuck in their face with their fingers flying around faster than I can type. I am constantly amazed at the speed and frequency teenagers can type up and send a message to a friend.
My two teenage boys seem to fit the same profile of teenagers today. If they were allowed, they would sit in one place playing and using their phones hour after hour maybe taking a restroom break or time out for a snack. If my wife and I didn’t take the phones from them every evening, they would stay up through the night playing and communicating on their phones.
The two big hurdles for educators is teaching students how to use social media responsibly so this technology can be leveraged for learning and ensuring this generation is taught “soft skills” or how to interact with people. Both are critical for the next generation to be successful. If we want students to use more technology in schools, a priority to teach students how to use social media responsibly is the first step. One social negative I have noticed is teenagers hiding behind social media communicating irresponsibly to others in their networks. Because there is no face to face when posting or sharing comments, teenagers think they can say what they want with no accountability. When a problem starts between two people, social media is used to “air the laundry” getting everyone in the network involved or in the business of the original two with the problem. Many take sides. Many in the network get involved and the problem now becomes a huge problem especially when many are students at the same school. How many schools have to address problems at school on Monday due to controversy started on social media? I am sure this is a problem for many schools across the country.
If we as educators want to use social media as a learning tool with students in school, we have to teach students the value of technology as a learning tool and not for sharing what you’re doing at any given moment with your personal network of friends. At my school, we are starting a campaign blitz with messages how to use social media for learning through youtube presentations and commercials created by our journalism students on the morning news show. Our good friends at Josten’s have supplied us with pins and posters with the slogan “pause before you post.” The idea is to get students to think to determine if the post might be considered harmful or viewed as negative by others. If it is, don’t send it! We have also found other posters on twitter which we are mass producing to plaster all over the school with similar messages. After the campaign message has had time to sink in, we will share our vision using technology responsibly across the school with our students. We will also work to communicate the same message to our parents and the community. The future of education where all students can bring a devise to school or use a school devise for learning purposes is here. This will take time and trust for all concerned along with accountability but will be worth the effort!