3 experts and 3 parents have answered
Our (KidsOKOnline) experience shows that children and young people can reap huge benefits from the social media if they are well guided by adults whom they respect. Lets take a look at some of those benefits that schools could help children gain:
LEARNING BENEFITS Active Citizenship - Children and young people can learn the social skills needed to participate successfully in an online community. Self Expression - especially for those with learning and physical disabilities, social networks let them take as long as they like to communicate. Children are not judged on the speed of thought or typing, but on the value of their contribution.
CyberSafety - Children can learn how to be safe and responsible on the Internet. Literacy - Almost every online activity involves written and visual communication and can motivate young people to write and help improve reading & writing. ICT Skills - Children develop and practice a range of ICT skills they need for everyday life and work and for formal curricula.
DIGITAL LITERACY Purposeful writing, formal and informal, is a major activity in most social media. Children communicate with peers, learning to pose and respond to questions and how to write to engage their audience. Children can be motivated to create good quality content for their profiles and to read and comment encouragingly on each other’s work.
Writing is not the easiest means of expression for everyone, nor is it always the most appropriate. Every picture tells a story and a video tells a lot more. Children can learn how to embed images and video in their social pages.
SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL Social networking, when harnessed to stimulate learning and productive social interaction, can actively support children become better learners and more responsible citizens. It can help children with special needs become more conﬁdent. Isolated children can find friends to share their interests.
Children and young people can be guided to create their own supportive community where they learn from each other, help each other, learn to cooperate and share, learn to understand each other’s feelings, learn active citizenship and gain cross-cultural understanding.
More here about the benefits and risks: http://www.slideshare.net/robslides/online-community-benefits-risks
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It might seem a little counter-productive – it does tend to be frowned upon to live tweet your lectures, or make Facebook statuses tagging your teachers – but social media can actually help students, in learning as well as socialising.
Christine Greenhow, Assistant Professor of Education at Michigan State University, found college students who tweet as part of their studies are more engaged with their course content, teachers, fellow students, and ultimately they achieve higher grades.
A well-curated class-based Twitter can help teachers share relevant information with their students (along with some subject-specific LOLs). ‘The students get more engaged because they feel it is connected to something real, that it’s not just learning for the sake of learning,’ argues Greenhow.
Facebook groups also allow subject and class groups to share and debate information, videos, polls, files and documents. It’s where young people feel at home – 53% of US college students use the site multiple times daily to research colleges as well as to socialise.
How about the younger generation? When they’re not busy with Farmville, they can continue hanging out with the friends they make on the playground – Risca Community Comprehensive in Wales utilise YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and a weekly blog to supplement conventional communication. And probably share a few funny cat videos.
I believe we have a responsibility as educators to help students harness social networks effectively and safely, but with some clear parameters. What do you think?
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In addition to the excellent answers by Robert and Penny, there's an opportunity for social media to help bridge schools from a reliance on individual work and achievement to a future where most of their work will be dependent on their ability to communicate constructively with others.
In the corporate world most projects worth working on involve several or several dozen people chipping away towards a common goal. This requires every person in the group to have communication, management, and organizational skills that are far beyond what's currently being taught in most schools today. You can be a great software engineer or product designer or advertising copywriter but if you don't have a set of core social skills you're going to be less effective in work groups.
It's not clear to me that current, popular social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc are the right ones, but the fundamentals are there. In the programming world, there are a set of assumptions set forth by Joel Spolsky in his book, Joel on Software, one of the more important being that one programmer is almost always more productive than two, and often more productive than three. The overhead cost of the communication between the programmers kills productivity. But almost all software that run core functions of large organizations is built and maintained by dozens or hundreds of programmers.
In my evaluation of schools for my kids I consider very carefully their practices around team-based projects. Incorporating social media would be a brilliant way to add structural features and limitations to the assignment to evoke more creativity from the kids. You need to communicate with your team-mates but can only do so in 140 characters per night. Or you need to communicate with your team-mates but can only do so using drawings on a social whiteboard feature (Google or WebEx) and no words. You need to communicate but can only do so for one half hour to mimic the real world scenario of having an internationally-distributed team in India, the UK, and San Francisco.
As with most technology in the classroom, it can bring unique and wonderful things to the curriculum if the teacher is prepared to use them.
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It amazes me how backward most schools are when it comes to technology and social media. No wonder the kids are forced to use Facebook, Twitter, Habbo etc. Surely there needs to be a nationwide social network for schools that has sub-networks for institutions. This would be moderated (naturally; because the teachers would be active participants) and safe. There would also be a focus on academia with the curriculum clearly explained and accessible to students and parents alike.
Of course for the kids this would be considered squareware.
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I've always thought that children should be allowed to access social media in schools.
Now it seems Wales Government is in agreement with Education Minister Leighton Andrews voicing his opinion.
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My school district allows the use of tweeter and Facebook. Most teachers use Edmodo.com. Edmodo Is like Facebook for educators and is quite secure. I post all notes, homework and reflection questions on Edmodo. Parents can also access the site if they ask the teacher for the access code.