TL Advisor Blog

From the Principal's Office: Sensible Learning

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July 22, 2013 By: Eric Sheninger

Jul 22

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7/22/2013 7:43 AM  RssIcon

Social Media is bad and has no place in education. It is a distraction to the teaching and learning process. If students are allowed to use social media in school they will stay off task or exhibit inappropriate behavior. Worse, teachers will spend countless hours “socializing” instead of educating. This is the misguided stigma that social media carries and, as a result, it is often banned in schools. However, there are a growing number of passionate educators who have embraced social media as a powerful tool for learning. When you look at how reliant the world is when it comes to social media use these educators look like geniuses.  Take a peak at the video below.



One must get past the stigma and truly experience what this free resource can do for our schools and students to appreciate its inherent value. Social media is all about conversations that center around user-created content. When structured in a pedagogically sound fashion, learning activities that incorporate social media allow students to apply what they have learned through creation. This fosters higher-order thinking skills and caters to a wide range of learning styles. Social media tools allow educators to authentically engage students as they encourage involvement, discussion, communication, collaboration, and creativity. These include mainstream examples such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, as well as, specialized ones such as Voicethread, Glogster, Animoto, and Prezi.

Blogs are an incredible social media tool that can be utilized in a variety of ways.  Teachers can set up a class blog to foster creative writing and reflection, or as an alternative to a school newspaper.  Blogs are not isolated to just writing, students can add rich media to posts such as pictures, videos, widgets, and gadgets.  The Holocaust Study Tour blog created by a New Milford High School teacher and her students who travel abroad to Europe on an annual Holocaust Study Tour provides is a great example. School administrators can use blogs as a powerful public relations tool in lieu of traditional newsletters and email blasts.  The ability to comment on any blog increases both student and community engagement.  

In our digital journalism class students are required to have their own Twitter accounts.  They are then empowered by the teacher to promote their articles and tweet out real-time school news as it happens.  This class provides our students with experience using real-world tools that journalists rely on more than ever.  It also teaches them about how social media can be used responsibly, to support learning, and as a professional tool.

For our students that have grown up in the digital age learning needs to be relevant, meaningful, and fun. Allowing them to use social media tools to achieve learning goals and objectives, of which they already are familiar with outside of school, makes sense in the globally connected, digital world we are all a part of. This, in my opinion, constitutes sensible learning.  A shift towards incorporating social media into education provides a golden opportunity to teach digital responsibility and citizenship to our learners, an area where many schools are failing. When doing so, we must ensure that policies are in line with this change, teachers are supported through professional development on how to effectively use social media in the classroom, and parents are educated on its value.

All of this makes sense to me as an educator, parent, and citizen. What about you?

cross-posted on A Principal's Reflections

Eric Sheninger is a NASSP Digital Principal Award winner (2012), PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient (2012), winner of Learning Forward's Excellence in Professional Practice Award (2012) and co-author of Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals and What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science. He presents and speaks nationally to assist other school leaders in effectively using technology. His blog, A Principal's Reflections, was selected as Best School Administrator Blog in 2011 by Edublogs.

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