Some thoughts on social media in education

socialmediaI found an article this morning from Lisa Nielsen and Lisa Cooley, Newsflash: Social media is real life. Take a few minutes to go read it and then share it with a parent or educator. I think it is an excellent argument for why we as educators need to embrace social media. The ideas expressed can certainly aid us in the issue of technology distraction being put forward by numerous teachers and parents.

While the article was written prior to the events of the last 24 hours in Boston, it prompted me to think about the role technology and social media played in leading law enforcement to the successful capture of the second suspect. We can’t go anywhere (except our own homes) without being under video surveillance. While it took some time for law enforcement to cull through thousands of items of surveillance footage, they were able to identify the suspects within days. Once the suspects were identified, the media, including social media, were quick to disseminate the images. At that point, it was just a matter of time. There was no stopping the avalanche of information and communication.

I’m not sure if or how you followed the events, but following them on Twitter reminded me of the power of social media. We can now all be reporters. I was reading re-Tweets of people on the block of Franklin Street that were witness to the gunfire before the TV news media even reported it. In fact, I’m sure they were reading the same Tweets and taking their reporting from them. Everyone connected to the event was Tweeting – the common citizen, the mayor, the police department, the news media, etc.

The other thing the event brings to light for me about social media is that so much of our lives are already online, whether we want it to be this way or not. Once the suspects were identified, a flurry of information about them was discovered by others online. As the article so effectively argues, social media IS real life. We cannot opt out. And if we as individuals don’t shape the online part of our lives, who will?

Now more than ever, we need to engage students in effectively using social media tools for learning, and for engaging in meaningful and productive interactions about causes and issues that matter most to them. And it needs to start with us as educators.

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