ISYS6621: We’re Already Late to the Social Education Party

I’m sure when we were able to get into this class, each of us was really excited for the opportunity to explore and delve into some of the nuances of tools we already use on a near constant basis. BC offering us the opportunity to learn practical applications for something we typically use to goof around seemed almost hedonistic. However, as it turns out – we’re already way, way behind on this social media education thing. Turns out it’s being taught in high school already.

While the structure and emphasis isn’t as formal or direct as what Professor Kane has provided us, grade schools are being forced to adapt and include social in their classrooms too. In a lot of ways, it’s actually helped learning and extended it beyond the normal constraints of the standard school day.

My wife is a high school teacher in Boston Public Schools. Until I asked her some questions about it, she had no idea so much of what she’s doing is based on social media and social technology. After giving it some thought, she realized it plays a big part in her daily lessons. Again, it’s not formalized – it’s just naturally finding its way into the curriculum.

To me, the biggest and most impressive use of social media in local high schools is with Google Docs. Teachers have their students write all of their papers and put together all of their presentations using Google Docs. This allows teachers the opportunity to provide notes and edits in real time, track progress and review various revisions. They can get through multiple students in a much shorter amount of time, which provides more time for the student to improve their work. It also expands the opportunity for feedback beyond the normal school day. My wife is editing her kids’ papers well into the evening. They’re also emailing and texting her on the weekends asking for advice on their projects. While this may seem like a lot of extra work for her, it has expanded her students’ ability to reinforce the lessons she is teaching, improved their retention and allowed my wife to cover more ground over the course of the year. Think about your high school experience for a second. How many drafts did you have to type and print and submit? Once the teacher got through one round and returned it with red ink, the whole process began again.

Not only do teachers use social with their kids on their projects, but they also leverage the collaborate abilities it provides with each other. A lot of cross-subject grading, student advancement initiatives and data tracking is done using Google and other social applications that allow teachers to work together. Each teacher can add individual pieces that provide a more holistic picture of the school’s results. This has become increasingly important with the amount of attention schools and their year-over-year achievement continues to generate.

Teachers also use social to interact in the most basic, yet still effective, ways. Many of the Boston Public School buildings are older and ill equipped for communication between classrooms. Where many schools in the more affluent suburbs are outfitted with phones in each classroom, BPS buildings are not. To accommodate, teachers communicate with each other throughout the day by texting or using things like WhatsApp. This allows them to warn each other of potential disciplinary issues as kids move class-to-class, communicate schedule changes or silently activate a lockdown. It’s a simple, yet useful tool in maintaining order in the absence of more common tools. Who knew teachers could be so savvy? It’s true what they say – teachers know every trick in the book!

But not all of grade school social education is focused on the ways it can make us more productive. Many of the presentations and class discussions in our course this semester have focused on the negative sides of social media – primarily cyberbullying. This is also discussed in high school classes. Teachers are battling the expansion and popularity of Snapchat and YikYak and are being forced to learn the ways they are abused. High schools must face the reality of students having and using cell phones. All the rules about leaving them in their lockers is only as good as their ability to monitor and enforce those rules. As a result, part of their curriculum has become an annual review of ethics and integrity in online media use.

For the most part, social media has provided some great opportunities at the grade school level. After our discussion, my wife believes its influence and incorporation will only grow. She cited how her school recently won a grant to purchase Chromebooks for each student for use in class. This has opened up the possibility of more interactive and collaborative lessons using the latest and greatest in applications. At a certain point, what we’re doing here in Social Media for Managers may become obsolete. Future BC students will have already covered it in high school.

10 comments

  1. Really interesting subject to blog about! I had never thought much about the role of social media in high schools, but you shared a lot of great insight. At my high school, every student had a tablet that we used in every class and brought home with us as well. It essentially replaced notebooks and textbooks, as everything was online. Almost every social media imaginable was blocked when anyone was connected through the school server (including teachers). While I can see why that was necessary to keep students on task, hearing about your wife’s experience made me reconsider this idea. There’s definitely constructive ways to use SM in high schools rather than only pinning it as a distraction. I also loved hearing that schools are making an effort to talk about cyber-bullying. As we’ve discussed in class, it has become a rising issue that needs to be addressed. Overall, awesome post!

  2. Great post! I never really think about the positives for high school and grade school aged kids using social because I’m constantly hearing stories about cyberbullying. It’s great to actually see how social is put to work in the classroom with Google Docs and WhatsApp. I have younger siblings in high school and middle school and our district introduced Bring Your Own Device in the past couple of years meaning laptops and tablets would become a central part of the learning experience. I saw the plan as a huge distraction for students, thinking all they would do is play around on their devices during the day. Your post made me see how the program might be more productive than I originally thought!

  3. Nice post! You have some valuable insights on social media in the education system through your wife’s experiences as well as your experience in this class–thanks for sharing! Education styles are truly changing since we were in middle and high school–for example, my sister’s school has made the transfer over to an “iPad only” environment, requiring all students to use an iPad to do their school work, in-class assessments and presentations. My sister’s classmates are all encouraged to use Twitter in their classes and she is required to use Pintrist for many of her art classes. My younger brother is in middle school and he also does all of his school work electronically, through Google Docs and sites such as Schoology. It is truly amazing to think that this social education is starting at younger years, especially because we are focusing now on this education with specific regard to the business world. Great post, this would be interesting to discuss more in class!

  4. I think one of the biggest game changers for education was definitely Google Docs. It really became THE way to work on group projects or even just collaborate in general. I will continue to use them until something better comes out. In my high school experience, we all were required to have laptops for every day class. But these privileges were often abused and the electronics were often used for FB and other online games. I never thought about the highly positive social side because in my experience, only the negatives were stressed. Our high school executives only talked about social when they had to make announcements about blocking our internet access or doling out punishments. So I’m glad you highlighted all the genuinely positives aspect of it. I believe the next big thing that will change for all levels of education will be phasing out physical books. The cost of textbooks is outrageous and I basically buy 90% of my books online for a much cheaper price. Curious to see how much longer schools will still be using hardcover. Again nice post!

  5. Nice post. For me, the biggest impact of social in the classroom is the ability to make it into a collaborative environment. That is, you are writing for and commenting for each other, not just for me. The “aha” moment for me was that I realized that I went all the way through graduate school, and never really read anything my peers had produced (nor had they read mine). I think the ability to benchmark yourself against your peers and learn from them is a very valuable experience, but not sure how it would translate into the highschool environment.

    1. While I think the ability of SM to allow individuals to benchmark themselves against their peers is a valuable experience, I would argue that there may be even better uses that can apply to both the collegiate and grade/high school experience. I think the opportunity SM provides teachers and students to interact in real time outside the classroom can lead to extremely efficient and productive classroom environments. For example, the fact that we can have this sort of dialogue outside the classroom about this topic makes me more motivated to learn as an individual.

      *I would say that this benefit can only be reaped in the hands of the right type of teacher however. The “right type” being one who is willing to spend time outside teaching hours communicating with students via SM

  6. I think the incorporation of SM into the grade school/high school classroom experience is ultimately a good thing. The classes and activities from my own past that stand out clearly in my mind are those that were collaboration based. While I was reading this post I was reminded of an activity that I use in my tutoring for brainstorming college-application essay topics: I designate different writing prompts to their own large pieces of paper and then hang them up and have the kids move around and write ideas/comment on each other’s thoughts on the papers so that there is a collection of the class’s thoughts and suggestions organized under each topic. Essentially, I am realizing, this is the hard-copy edition of a chat-room/messaging app. I got this idea from my own high school experiences, particularly from my experience in my small, discussion-based English classes. From my experience, student-collaboration activities are far more effective and memorable than the “loudspeaker” technique of a teacher reporting to the class at large. With social media’s group-forming and discussion-enabling qualities, I think there is true potential to open up already-effective classroom techniques to the versatility enabled by online platforms. Great Post!

  7. I’m not sure if the incorporation of SM into middle school/high school classroom experience is great move for all teachers. In the hands of the right teachers I think SM can do a tremendous good to the student, the teacher, and the whole learning environment. However I would argue that not all teachers are a good fit for this particular model. The fact that your wife is responding to emails and texts from students on the weekends shows to me that she is the right type of teacher. It shows that she is dedicated to her work and is trying to make the biggest impact on her students as possible. I think that in the hands of the right type of teacher, social media can lead to a more productive classroom. I would also argue that if students can tell their teachers are extremely invested in their learning (i.e. responding to emails and texts on the weekends, providing notes and guidance on google docs periodically, etc. ) it is going to make the students more motivated and interested in putting out the best work!

  8. Awesome post! I, personally, would like to take a course on how to use social media SAFELY. I think this is a class that everyone should take. Rather than just teaching kids how to use google docs and twitter and word press, we should be taught how to use them correctly, or more safely, if possible. I think this is something that should for sure be stressed, especially for younger people. Social Media is something that is only going to expand more and become more and more prevalent in every aspect of our lives. I wonder how social media will continue to develop into our work places. Should be interesting to see how it unfolds!

  9. Great post Todd. As a former teacher, I can relate to some of what your wife has experienced. I was actually able to use a class set of iPads for my 7th grade social studies class and took advantage of some of the social media and tech services you cite. The experience also served as an introduction into how much adolescents and teenagers love youtube! I’ll second Prof Kane’s comment that the collaborative environment produced by “social in the classroom” is a very significant impact. I also discovered that allowing student to self-author works to publish on social sites produced huge investment in learning objectives. Congrats to your wife for winning the grant to purchase Chromebooks!

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