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Social Media in Education. Is it a Good Thing?

posted on April 1, 2012

Social Media in Education. Is it a Good Thing?

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box."
-Edward R. Murrow

This famous quote by Edward R. Murrow  was in reference to television over fifty years ago. It was a new form of media. People were watching hours of programming each week, and many experts wondered what future implications this new technology was going to have on society. The parallels of television to social media today are numerous. Are Facebook and Twitter good things for society? What is the appropriate amount of time one should spend on YouTube? How can this constant distraction serve any educational purpose?

Student safety has been the rational behind a great number of laws restricting teachers’ and students’ interactions through social networks. The laws also call into question what sort of educational value social tools have.

There are a great number of arguments, however, for why social media should be used in education—the most compelling being that since its inception, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have been sites that students want to use.

@IPTVEducation asked its Facebook and Twitter followers why teachers should use social media. We received a number of responses, all for responsibly using social media in the classroom.  "If not in their classrooms, teachers should be using social media for themselves professionally," said Darin Johnston, an Iowa middle school educator. "They gain a more directed professional development stream, one they can tailor to topics of interest/need in their classroom, and they also gain the ability to interact with other classrooms with an assortment of educational activities."

iptv education twitterSocial Media has changed how we communicate, particularly with mobile devices and social media. The hashtag (#) has huge potential for education. As far as professional development, teachers are turning to Twitter to collaborate, share resources, and offer each other support. Many are using it to take professional development into their own hands, 140 characters at a time. "I use social media to collaborate with other teachers whom I may have never met if not through sites like Twitter," said Audrey Sturtz, a science teacher from Manson Northwest Webster High School.

Professionals throughout the country use Facebook to keep their clients, customers, or users informed on a variety of topics, and it can be used in the exact same manner for educators. "Social media is not only a great way to communicate with stakeholders, but is an awesome way to make connections for learning," said Stacy Behmer, Coordinator of Digital Learning at Grant Wood AEA. With Facebook, teachers are following groups and pages that offer free resources. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feeds, like Google Reader, offer teachers a way to find articles, blogs, and news about education to enhance how they teach. More importantly, these tools can help students learn and help meet them where they are already at with technology. 

If we take Murrow’s quote and replace "this instrument" with "television," "film," "the Internet," or even "social media," the meaning of quote doesn’t change. There is value in these new technologies. Like any new technology, however, it is how you use it that matters. 

If you are new to Twitter or Facebook, check out these resources that can help you use social media in your classroom with your students or for your own professional development.

Tags: education educators professional development social media teachers technology

Subjects: Professional Development


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