Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Battle Over Social Networking

Does social networking have a place in the classroom? This question has been at the center of the heated debate over the use of social networking in the classroom. Some believe that social networking should be welcomed into the classroom with open arms while there are others that believe that it should be banned and never heard from again. Which way best serves our students?  

I think that a classroom that fails to utilize social networking fails to adequately prepare 21st century learners and citizens. Social networking doesn't look like it's disappearing any time soon. In fact, with each passing year, it is becoming more and more ingrained in our society. When used correctly, social media teaches students about communities, respect, organizing groups and working with others. Teachers can get students to see the value of social networking besides talking to friends and posting pictures. Not only that, but it opens up the classroom beyond its four walls. It allows students to collaborate with students around the world, which can bring learning to life. As teachers, we should be encouraging students to leverage online tools to improve and refine their learning. Banning social media teaches our students that they cannot be trusted on the Internet when they should be learning to create and appropriately manage their online identities. 

Social networking should be welcomed into the classroom but it needs to be done carefully. Before engaging social media, teachers should take an opportunity to talk to their students about what is and isn't appropriate behavior in online communities. They should also stress the permanence of anything they post online by reminding them that what they post is a reflection of themselves. It is the teacher's job to model for students how to act professionally on social networking sites. To that end, teachers can make online behavior part of their grade for any assignments involving social media. If students can learn social networking in the safe environment of the classroom, they can go on and use it responsibly in the years to come.

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