Space for Social Media in the Classroom #SocialLEADia
One of the big reasons why I wanted to become a teacher is because I struggled a lot academically throughout my schooling. Reading, writing, and spelling were always a huge challenge for me, and certain teachers went out of their way to build amazing relationships with me and provided me with encouragement and support through my challenges. Those teachers made me want to do the same for students who would be in my position in the future, hence why I chose education as my profession.
While spelling (and dictée) tests never worked to improve my ability to properly spell, and reading aloud to the whole class never helped me to become a better reader, all of those situations definitely raised my anxiety and crushed my confidence. I worked hard and studied every night (ask my parents who spent countless hours helping me while I cried and cried over my lack of academic skills) and yes, I remember getting 9/10 on spelling tests, but for what? The second the test was over, I forgot everything. And do you remember in school, when reading a novel aloud in class, and students would take their turn reading a paragraph each? It’s no wonder my comprehension was next to non-existent because I spent my time doing the math to see what paragraph would be mine and practice it over and over in my head so I felt more prepared when my turn came… or I would excuse myself to the bathroom right before my turn. Clever, but not at all beneficial. Note: these instances still mark who I am today; I am still filled with anxiety if I have to read a new text in front of anyone (including my own students) or write brainstorming ideas on chart paper in front of colleagues (using chart paper & markers is so permanent). Talk about a scarring experience in my schooling.
One day, though, I felt this change… All of a sudden, reading and writing for an authentic audience changed my perception and made me want to learn while retaining what I was learning. I must’ve been in 6th or 7th grade when my classmates and I headed to the computer lab. To our surprise, we were introduced to a chatting program, maybe LAN, where we could chat with our classmates (social media in school, what!?). With this awesome new tool, I started typing away, talking with my best friends, but also talking to others with whom I didn’t really interact because boys were intimidating! 🙂 I’ll always remember this fun, very innocent, fantasy story that a boy who I had a huge crush on and I had made up through this chat. He had a red corvette and was picking me up to go on a date to McDonalds, woohoo! Shortly thereafter, I joined the world of social media at home (because my siblings and I collectively had gotten a computer as a Christmas gift one year, and eventually, dial-up internet was in the house!!). First, it was interacting with my friends via e-mail, and then it became AOL chat, and MSN messenger. What I found is that these experiences really helped me to improve my reading, writing, and spelling. I was now way more conscientious of how I spelled words and was always looking words up to make sure they were spelled correctly (and I was definitely reading and writing way more than I used to). Wouldn’t you know it, an authentic audience and a chance to interact with my friends made me want to learn and improve! What more could a pre-teen ask for?
To this day, I’m still not a great speller (thank goodness for auto-correct and those marvelous red squiggly lines under words) and I am the slowest reader (but this is getting better now that I’m reading way more, thanks to countless inspiring blogs and to Dave Burgess Consulting Inc.). But what I find very interesting when reflecting on my experience in school is that as soon as teachers incorporated my interests and got me excited about reading and writing (while using social media), the learning happened much more naturally (and without tears). This isn’t a new phenomenon, I’m hoping that by now it’s common knowledge that educators should incorporate students’ passions and interests in the classroom. It’s important to remember, though, that this will probably include at least in some way, shape, or form, social media. This exact thing, with many fantastic examples, are mentioned over and over again in Social LEADia, written by Jennifer Casa-Todd. These quotes really stood out to me:
“We need to take the time to see what and how our students are learning. Imagine how much more meaningful our lessons might be if we incorporated some of the students’ own positive online learning experiences into our classrooms to complement our curriculum expectations.”
In her book, Jennifer shared how she took a leap of faith and decided to start blogging with her students. What she learned from this experience is very similar to what I experience with chats:
“Simply put, my students were excited to read, write, create, and share. It was at that point that I recognized the extent to which having an audience beyond the teacher could have such a positive impact”
It’s no wonder that it’s time to re-evaluate and re-think how we view and use social media in education! Is there space for social media in your classroom?