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Teachers Debate Social Media Use in Class

TweetIn a story by Paul Barnwell of TeacherMagazine.org posted on Education Week May 30, 2012, the self-described tech-leaning teacher derided the use of social media technologies like Facebook as having little to no academic value in the classroom. Barnwell wrote:

“I’ve always been open to new technologies in the classroom—in fact, in 2010 I argued that we were doing students a disservice by not incorporating cell phones into instruction. But over the past two years, I’ve seen or read about too many teachers and students who have become enamored with—even addicted to—social media and cell phone applications that fail to offer true pedagogical advantage or promote critical thinking.”

While Barnwell raises important issues, the argument rings hollow when one considers his points have been made for decades every time a new technology emerges. The onus is on the teacher to use these burgeoning technologies as effective classroom tools. Where someone complains that Twitter is killing students’ proficiency in English, a creative teacher is using the social media platform as a 21st-century version of the Chain Story Lesson, in which a student writes one sentence of a story, another student writes the next and so on, until a finished narrative is complete.

Thankfully, Barnwell says he is "a long way from giving up on technology altogether" and is working on infusing Web 2.0 tools into his curriculum.

Barnwell is right to question the technologies, but to abandon them after a single attempt at implementation is a disservice to his students, and to his own professional development.

As EPlybon, a commenter responding to Barnwell's story, explained:

"We encounter teachers every day who use technology because it is cool, rather than making sure it is the tool that will get that particular task done in the most meaningful and efficient way. To translate that into evidence against the use of social media is flawed. I have seen social media, and the concepts surrounding it, used in very meaningful ways which promote higher-level thinking, and I've seen it used as fluff. Making the distinction between the two is important. I will not concur with you that, because some teachers use it wrong, we all should stop using it."

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