Why should teachers embrace internet technologies?
In mid-September, the inappropriate use of an internet tool turned disastrous in Pitt Meadows when photos of a 16-year-old girl's sexual assault were circulated among her peers on Facebook.
Knowing that social networking and other technologies can easily get out of control, educators have two options: (1) shutting their eyes and ears and letting the police deal with the fallout, or (2) embracing the technologies in the classroom and steering students toward more appropriate use.
According to Kelly Walsh, an information technology blogger and educator in New York state, the latter option makes more sense when it comes to internet technologies. "We can choose to sit back and wish it would all just go away," he says on his blog, "...or we can choose to embrace it, and look for simple ways to learn more about it."
Below, I comment on Walsh's top five reasons why educators should embrace internet technologies:
#1: Students Use Them Already
Attention, Facebook curmudgeons: your students are experts at online social networking. They know how to use Facebook to play FarmVille, to break up with someone, and to get people to join a group called "A lamborghini with a zombie tied to the bumper is awesome" - but they know less about when they're crossing the line into something dangerous or illegal. The more guidance they get from educators, the more likely it will be that one teen will deter his peers from doing something risky by saying, "Dude, delete that! Are you trying to get arrested?"
#2: It’s Not Going Away
"[These technologies are] already woven into the fabric of the daily lives of millions of people," says Walsh on his blog.
A relevant public school education will have to incorporate social media sooner or later. Why not have individual teachers get a head start?
#3: The Power To Engage
There is a secret to why students have become expert Facebookers and Tweeters: they like it.
Do they get as excited about most biology assignments? Probably not. But what if a teacher could take a project on tapeworms and turn it from a tedious exercise in copying facts from a textbook, into a dynamic multi-media presentation that had a student willingly staying after school to finish? Totally possible with the right technologies.
#4: Professional Development
Teachers are (or should be!) naturally curious creatures, open to better ways of getting across what they have to teach. Creative professionals are already seeking innovative ways to use technology in the classroom, while pedagogical research shows increasingly that these tools can significantly boost students' learning and engagement.
#5: Businesses Want to Hire Workers Who Understand The Internet
"If you introduce your students to technologies like Blogs, RSS Feeds, Wikis, and so on, you will be helping to build their resume," says Walsh.
Employers of the future will want not only those who are familiar with things like "cloud computing", but also those who know where and when it's appropriate to log in to Facebook. Not all kids will learn these internet smarts at home.
In a previous School View blog posting, VSB trustee Mike Lombardi says that educators and others across British Columbia should collaborate to develop a digital literacy curriculum for all students. He hopes the Ministry of Education will lend its support.
"Now is the time for policymakers to play a leadership role in bringing together educators, students, parents, law enforcement agencies, and other appropriate agencies to develop a social media literacy program," he says.