Taking the “Social” out of Social Media?

Patricia’s post about Facebook built on something I have been thinking about a lot lately: Why do I want to use social media in the classroom?  Now, I am not saying I am opposed to it, but I want to know why I am using it.  What are the pedagogical reasons for it?

Patricia makes some excellent points, I think, when she says:

Facebook is a social place and they should use it for social purposes. It’s THEIR place, THEIR space, THEIR party. Making them use this very social space to learn things is like crushing a party on a Friday night. One of the other teachers pointed out that it is incredible how often students use facebook. And, that’s true; yes, they do. But that’s because they need to. They need to exchange nonsense videos, the need to send each other hugs, and they need to have a place to vent their exasperation about education (how telling is that!) in desperate messages in which they complain how much studying sucks. Taking away this SOCIAL space from them and turning it into an EDUCATIONAL space would be a crime.

Students spend time using social media.  We want to take advantage of our students’ interests to teach them things.  Both of those statements are basically true, I think.  But the question is, does the one necessitate the other?  Since they like social media, do we have to use it to teach them something?

Like Patricia, I am inclined to say “No!”

So what are we to do?

The answer, I think, starts with looking at the pedagogy.

That is what Chris is saying in his post about his NECC presentation.  He says in his slides:

Pedagogy matters. A Lot.

His slides include one that says technology must be

Ubiquitous, Necessary, Invisible

And he says:

What’s Good? Is a Better Question Than What’s New.

So what would be the pedagogy behind using social media?  Would the use of social media be “Ubiquitous, Necessary, Invisible”?

And if we take over social media sites to use them for our own purposes where will the young people go to socialize?  As Patricia says, they need that space for socializing.

I don’t think that any of this means that we shouldn’t use social media with our students, though.  If we strive to make the technology “Ubiquitous, Necessary, Invisible,” we could surely use social media.  But the invisible part would make it hard to crash into Facebook without an invitation.  And I think it comes down a lot to choice.  If students are given projects to work on and want to use social media to do it, that would be fine.  If, for instance, students were doing some sort of a project on other countries and wanted to use 43 Places, that is their decision.  But the minute I tell them, “You have to go on 43 Places and get information about your country,” I think we have distorted the whole thing.  We have taken the “social” out of social media.

How do we strike a balance between taking advantage of our students’ interests and co-opting what matters to them and using it for our own purposes?

As I said, this is something I have been thinking about a lot lately.  I don’t know that I have any answers, but at least I have some questions.  I guess that’s the first step.

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