Social media in the classroom?

The #140conf has made a lot of headlines this year.  As usual, Edutopia has a great article focusing on social media and in specific, Twitter.  One particularly neat snippet is a story about how Virgin America is using Twitter:

Virgin America revealed how their two person social media team monitors Twitter so closely that they not only ensure satisfaction of their customers but they’ve differentiated themselves from their competition by doing so. Some stories worth sharing: By combing tweets, Virgin noticed that an in-flight customer hadn’t received their sandwich yet. Virgin’s team was able to respond by quickly sending a message to the on-flight staff. The staff was able to get the sandwich to the customer and at the same time Virgin was able to demonstrate their fast response time publicly via Twitter. They’ve even gone as far as helping customer’s celebrate notable milestones while in flight. A customer tweeted casually that they just received their PhD. By simply retweeting their comment and asking people on board to buy the customer champagne, it not only made that customer’s day, it showed that a brand truly cared and collaborated with other in-flight customers to help her celebrate!

What in the world does that have to do with Education?  Well, I guess the simple as is this:  Social Media is changing the world our students are living in.  And the problem is:  Are we doing anything at all to prepare these kids for their world?

Every minute I listened to the many speakers at #140conf, I got more and more inspired but my excitement was bittersweet. My mind kept drifting to the state of our schools. Most of our schools are still using filters to block all social networking sites. Although we’re living in an incredibly exciting time, we can’t even demonstrate it or get our students involved with it. Many would argue that the purpose of education is to create twenty-first century learners and responsible, active community citizens. I ask you, how can we do this without exposing our youth to the tools that are revolutionizing the web and the world as we know it?

We’re purposely creating a disconnect with our youth and setting them up to fail in the digital space by simply hiding social media sites because we’re too afraid of misuse. Whether we like it or not, our students are already using social media sites. Seventy-three percent of American teens now use social networking websites, according to new study by Pew Internet on Social Media and Young Adults. Are we going to stand aside and watch them engage in social media with their phones and at home? What about teaching our youth about digital footprints, citizenship, and etiquette in this quickly evolving space? As educators, I can’t imagine a more important role to take on. The #140conf reminded me that we all have the ability to inspire, it’s just a shame that we can’t guide our future generation with the tools to do so.

As leaders in our school board, we should be providing our teachers with the tools to guide our future generations to succeed in this new world.

Truly,

Steve

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