Digital technologies and social networking sites used to improve communication are being introduced at an accelerated rate in K-12 environments. I’m not just making a reference to high schools, either. Successful applications have been reported in early elementary schools.
An article by Ashley Miller in December 2013 summarized the positive student engagement resulting from using Google Hangouts last November, which removed spatial barriers to collaboration. Second grade students were interacting with others in their grade to read, write, and discuss. The article mentions that, “They were totally engrossed and are eager for the next time they reconnect with their virtual classmates” (Miller, 2013).
Similarly engaging, but conceivably more relevant and real, was recent cross-continental use of Skype in a global history class (Shein, 2014). What better way to learn about cultural differences than to witness them first hand? Students were able to connect with others from the same age cohort in Afghanistan. While this article did recognize some arguably offensive political bombast that resulted from the communications, the opportunity for debate was an opportunity to apply concepts, instead of simply memorizing them. What a unique way to achieve digital citizenship using a constructivist methodology!
Twitter is another useful tool for communication that can be used for professional development. While there is a substantial amount of opinionated commentary, information is also available in real time from reputable sources and industry experts. This social media microblog allows open communication from any facilitator of education, both formal and informal. Additionally, it encourages discussion on an issue- which can also entice a debate. Aside from being the preference of digital natives in a participatory culture, being able to defend a position held on a certain issue is healthy and should be encouraged.
Yet, in an information age when 21st century education is significantly enhanced through communication tools such as Hangouts, Skype, and Twitter, the digital divide is often amplified by traditionalists who refuse to allow digital technologies into a professional environment. Often times, legal fears inadvertently result in this restriction of ubiquitous education opportunities (Bennington, 2014). I would argue that providing education on appropriate use would be far more beneficial than a blanket restriction. This requires both traditional and contemporary media literacy skills, guidance on digital citizenship, and clear policies on what is acceptable use.
The transition is inevitable, and the benefits are immeasurable, so efforts should be focused on ensuring that digital technologies and social networking is used responsibly.
Bennigton, E. (2014). What to do when an employee violates your social media policy. Monster Small Business blog. Retrieved from http://hiring.monster.com/hr/hr-best-practices/small-business/social-media-trends/social-media-guidelines.aspx
Miller, A. (2013 Dec 07). Harding google hangouts. Globegazette.com. Retrieved from http://globegazette.com/news/local/article_0d51404b-914d-50be-afb7-56e180c393c1.html#.UsG3NiL9Nas.twitter
Schein, E. (2014). Social media goes to school. Scholastic Administrator. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3758300