The Two Headed Dragon of Education- Social Media

dragonsI speak to educators and leaders within education every day and one topic pings our conversation just about 100 percent of the time.  Social Media.

Social Media is the Two-Headed Dragon of Education.

One head is schools and systems trying to fight it or contain it in a manner that minimizes their exposure to Social Media while the other head is trying to figure out exactly what it is and how to use it to engage students.  All this while just below them are the students themselves, aka the dragon slayers, moving through technology boundaries so quickly that neither head of the dragon knows where to look next creating an uber-frustrating educational environment trying so desperately to reach students on their terms.

So how does Education deal with Social Media and can it keep up with students?

Yes.  Of course it can.

Educators, when it comes to Social Media, often box themselves into the same category our parents did when it came to programming the clock on the VCR.  They take the assumption that only the “kids” know how to do these things and they won’t understand it.  Not the case.

So, where do you start?  Well, at the beginning is usually a good place.

Here are 5 Ideas to advance social media within the classroom.  Especially for the novice.

1)  Ask the students to train you on Social Media.  I know this is flipping the role just a bit but I promise, if you ask a kid to teach you, you will find one super engaged student all of a sudden.  Have them focus on the simple Social Media sites like Twitter or Instagram to start.  You can always advance out as you progress.  You will most likely find a student that will listen to you more intently moving forward as well.  After all, now there is a connection.

2)  Take time and use Social Media every day for 30 days.  Okay, I know this sounds like a diet, and it kind of is.  It is nourishing your mind with the potential of Social Media.  (Wow, did you just buy that?)  Seriously though, the more you use it, the more you realize what you can do with it and more importantly what you can do with it in your classroom.  Follow news sources, educational contributors, or anything that you find interesting and you will start to see how powerful sites like Twitter can be.  This is especially true if you happen to be sitting right on a political election cycle!

3)  Ignore the critics in education.  This is key.  Listening to critics of Social Media while learning about it is like getting financial advice from a bankrupt friend.  It will stall your progress.

4)  Lesson plan with Social Media in mind.  This is where it can get a little tougher but think about it this way.  Where are students getting their information?  Hint: It isn’t from the newspaper or news on tv that is for sure.  It is coming in 140 character doses.  Lesson planning and engaging your new tools allows you to peek into how students are learning outside of the classroom and engage them on new terms.  For example, have them search a current event using a #hashtag then report back their findings.  Not sure what that means?  It’s okay, you can always go back to step 1.

5)  Share your successes and lessons learned.  No one learns anything without a teacher including teachers.  Many are simply scared to try or think they are unique in moving this direction and they are not.  They just need to hear it from others.  One of my favorite radio show hosts is Dave Ramsey.  The reason why is not necessarily because of the content of his message, but because he has people come on the air and celebrate being debt free.  They aren’t bragging but more so providing hope to others it can be done.  Hey, if I can teach my mother in law how to use Instagram, surely a teacher can learn how to use Twitter, yes?

Now, this is just a start and I am certain this forum can provide many more good ideas so please add them in the comments.

The point to all this being one thing.  Social Media is here to stay.  We really need education on board and embracing what it can do for our students and not how we think it is a poor idea.  After all, our dragon slayers in a very short period of time, will figure out how to lop off the one head that is fighting the use of Social Media in schools.