It never fails. Every time I bring up Social Media use in schools in front of a big group, there are naysayers in the crowd. There are questions of legality, questions about inappropriate behavior, statements about the line between personal and professional, and much more. Many people tend to automatically go to that negative and precautionary space before giving the idea a chance. Well, I want to start this off with a question. If we don't teach our youth how to engage in Social Media for positive, productive, and professional use, then who will?
The students we have in class have grown up with social media. It is a significant part of their life if we like it or not. You can argue that much of their daily life revolves around posting pictures, sharing video, liking their friends post, or following hashtags. Rather than fighting it, why don't we use it in a way that will educate them? Social Media is powerful. It is not negative or positive unto itself. It just is. So what will we do with it?
I have had the experience of witnessing my students use social media in positive, productive, and professional ways. I have seen a student write a literature blog and then be contacted by publishers to review books. I have seen a student who wrote game reviews for a company who noticed his blog. I have seen students create videos that ended up getting national recognition and used for non-profit marketing through social media. I have seen students organize educational and philanthropic events with hundreds of people in attendance because they leveraged social media for marketing. I have seen students get jobs in marketing while going to college because they had experience using social media professionally. These examples are just from my school. Students know the power they possess and it is up to us to direct them in a way that will make them successful.
Every teacher knows that to reach students academically, you have to first establish a relationship with them. The classic ways to do this is of course through dialogue in the classroom but also through going to their games, watching their performances and supporting them in their pursuits. However, social media has became another way to connect with them. If a students friends you or follows you, they are trusting you to see their daily posts. They are letting you in to a piece of their life. We can use this and make significant gains in our relationships with them through social media. If we get them to post about school or their classes, this is a big victory for all. Because that means that what they are learning, is relevant to their world. Rather than cutting them off from it, we are embracing their world en route to educating them.
It is not a question as to if they are using social media in schools. The question we have to ask is, are we making school engaging and important enough to them to be part of that world. Social Media is a tool that we can use to help our students accomplish things that we never dreamed of when we were in school. They can access the world around them and bring that into our classrooms on a daily basis. What will you do with this tool? How can we help our kids to commit to a positive, productive, and professional digital footprint? Leading is Teaching.