Friday, April 3, 2009

Essay on schools and social networking

The current generation of students is coming into schools with a greater and greater knowledge of technology, and they use this technology throughout the day both in class and out, especially technology in the form of social networking. If we as educators want to tap into this area of student ability and harness it to aid in classroom skills, we must be up to date with the applications and programs that students are using. For schools that also deal with monetary issues, the use of these web 2.0 applications that are available to all become even more important.

Now some would argue that opening up the schools to the use of these applications could violate the privacy of the students as well as possibly leading to cyber bullying that is becoming more and more prevalent as reported in the media and in our schools. This side would argue that schools need to be a safe haven for students to come and learn in, and that they should not be encouraging these forms of technology that could open up others to a violation of their privacy rights.

However, on the other side of the argument comes those that would say if students are using this on their own, in their homes, why not simply encourage them to continue using the technology they know but incorporate it into their school life as well. I happen to agree with this side of the argument, for the moment.

We know that students are actively using technology so why not use this same tool to better increase their writing skills, their reading skills, as well as many others. Not only will it increase their individual skills but will also help with the skills of their peers as well. To have a student critique, analyze, or review another student’s work first provides a new level of feedback to the original creator and secondly improves the knowledge of the reviewer as well.

Throughout our education, we have been taught and have experienced the fact that students learn a skill the best when they teach this same skill to others. In a way, isn’t reviewing another’s work very similar to this concept? If a student is to create a thoughtful and intelligent critique of another’s work then they must understand the skills and concepts conveyed in that work. Take for example, a running commentary on a musical work started on twitter. Students that critique another’s comments on the work must themselves have a complete knowledge of all of the parts that make up this particular work to accurately comment on their peers work. Through this running commentary all parties involved may increase their own knowledge in regards to the given topic.

With the correct supervision, students should have no trouble appropriately using the free online web applications for school related purposes. The key here is that students are correctly supervised. It would seem to me that many of the problems that the opposition has in regards to these online sites is because of this lack of appropriate supervision. If teachers are actively aware of what occurs in their classrooms in regards to these social networking sites as they apply to school, these problems of cyber bullying and privacy violations should be able to be avoided.