Thursday, July 25, 2013

Using social media in the classroom

What is your opinion of using social media such as Facebook and Twitter for educational purposes with older students? Federal law states that individuals must be at least thirteen in order to have an account. In your reflection, consider the viewpoints of other stakeholders.

I'm glad you asked me, Online & Blended class!

We need to talk about the economic concept of opportunity cost to address this question. Opportunity cost is value of the next best option - it is the value of what you give up by selecting what you think is the best option.

So the question asked means the teacher has to decide between using Facebook or Twitter or doing something else for a lesson. What would Facebook or Twitter be used for in a classroom?

1. Writing for an authentic audience.
2. Communicating with experts.
3. Summarizing - a great meta-cognitive task.
4. Communicating with other students, say, to plan a project. 

Now, you have to add the hidden costs of doing these types of activities using Facebook or Twitter, which include the time it takes to get all students working on Facebook or Twitter (getting out their devices,waiting for them to start, opening up Facebook or Twitter) + the time spent getting kids on task (instead of spending time reading Tweets, students need to get to the academic task). And there is the very real cost of all the time students will take trying to use their iDevice to get on Facebook or Twitter for the rest of the year; once a teacher opens the door to iDevices, it never, ever closes.  Many students, unable to ignore the call of their iDevice, will be only half present for the rest of the year if they are allowed to use them at certain times in the classroom. Technology enthusiasts have yet to offer real-class solutions to this problem.

It's time for the teacher to weigh the costs of the options. One one side are the costs/benefits of using technology to complete class work through Facebook or Twitter. On the other side is the simple cost/benefit of getting out a piece of paper to do the task or turning and talking with a partner or any of the countless ways teachers have right in their classroom, using almost nothing but brains and materials at hand, to do the same task, undistracted by the siren call of technology. 

Look, the idea that we need to get kids prepared for college by using technology such as iDevices, Facebook, and Twitter is outlandish. Technology skills are low-level skills; my mother, for example, learned to make kick-butt websites when she was 55. She had the desire to learn so she learned, tried, practiced, failed, learned some more, and got really good. 

We better prepare students when we help them expand their attentions, learn to think deeply, converse with others in a face-to-face environment. Learning is simple and we're making it hard. Here's the formula: dynamic teacher  + student brains + rigorous lesson plans with lots of scaffolding = increased student achievement. That's the option I will choose.

But I could be completely wrong. It could be that adding that student engagement piece and excitement that technology brings to the classroom positively impacts student achievement to such an extent that it cannot be ignored. For this reason, I do use technology in the classroom and look for tools that enhance student engagement and achievement to such an extent that the opportunity cost of choosing a traditional classroom devoid of technology is too costly, indeed.


  1. Your increased student achievement formula is so accurate! I also have to agree about kids needing more than using the technology to prepare them for college. Personally, I have one child who just completed her Master's Degree and is working full time, one a couple of months away from completing her double major, and one who will be a sophomore, also pursuing a double major. They are/were able to be extremely successful in college because they had dynamic teachers, were pushed academically, and while they did not have 1:1 opportunities in high school, they were taught social behaviors and had enough technology training included to succeed.

  2. I also agree that your increased student achievement formula is great. You are correct that the kids already know (or can quickly figure out how to use Facebook and Twitter), but teaching them to expand their attentions and think deeply are much more challenging skills that must be learned for students to be successful. My daughter (a college freshman) has only used Twitter in one class. It was a large lecture class and basically they used it to electronically raise their hands in class to ask a question (a substitution use of technology).