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2014-12-28 post date.

The Future of Social Media in Education

The educational benefits of social media are obvious; children are motivated to communicate through the written language, the potential for communicating with peers from other countries offers a multitude of learning opportunities and the ability for students to share their thoughts and ideas on a particular subject or topic area. However, there are of course associated dangers.    
In 2005 the European Union launched an eTwinning project for schools to encourage cross-cultural exchanges of knowledge, foster students’ intercultural awareness, and improve their communication skills, using ICT. More than 13,000 schools got involved in the first year alone. The benefit of learning via collaboration with other students internationally is unquestionable, but obviously engaging with people online comes with its warnings. In the school environment teachers have a duty of care and therefore working through a secure IT system is vital. Good social media platforms designed for schools should have “twinning”as a core feature, to enable teachers to select schools from a pre approved list, based on location and any topics they may be working on. Classes can then “twin” with other schools for a vibrant, engaging and highly educational learning activity.
In today’s world, social media has truly become the new currency for communication. However, it is important to know that Facebook’s minimum age, as per their license agreement is 13 —and for a very good reason. A survey carried out by Opinium last year highlighted the fact that more than half of children use social media by the age of 10 years and people they didn’t know had messaged 43 percent of these!
So while we could conclude that the best way forward is to increase the restrictions on under age use of social media, when we consider the benefits of this 21st century communication system, it has to be better to educate children into the safe use of social media rather than cut them off.
It is critical to expose elementary children to what is going to be a big part of their lives. As so many of our client schools stress, children are engaged with social media whether they should be doing it or not and therefore schools are, to a certain extent, increasingly responsible for the education of their students on social media.
Schools may believe that responsibility for the appropriate use of social media lies with parents. However, another report found that while a third of nine to 19 year olds who use the Internet report having received unwanted sexual comments, only seven percent of parents stated that their child would have received such comments.
There is mounting adoption of technology in schools, but are they ready for it and the associated dangers? When we have school districts with children four and five years of age being given tablets to use where the teacher has minimal visibility of their activities, it is vital that we teach children the fundamental skills early. They certainly play with it and enjoy posting and receiving information but few have the fundamental skills, the ABC, 123s that as adults, we take for granted.
An important part of educating children today is therefore to give them a system that includes a complete appreciation of using social media effectively and ethically. At one school using such a system, a boy sent a hurtful message to another girl in the class. Because of the teacher’s dashboard, all messages could be seen so the children were protected. The teacher took the boy aside to ask him why he’d done this and how he thought it would make his classmate feel? He felt bad and learned a harsh lesson. Without naming names, the children in the class were told about the incident and it was discussed: a very real opportunity to teach the children about the correct use of social media.
If we don’t teach children social media skills, then we simply look to compound issues that we already have.

Internationally

In my mind the two key 21st century emerging skills are global awareness and collaboration. Children want to connect with other people in the world; to talk to them, learn from them and play games. Social media platforms designed for elementary schools have taken this one step further. If, for example, a class is doing a topic on Great Britain, a U.S. teacher can connect with a school in Britain to collaborate with the teacher, share lesson ideas and then let the students engage one another to understand more about each other’s culture. Teaching children about the world, learning by engaging with others from overseas, is much more effective than learning from books alone. Letting children experience and appreciate other nations, religions and languages also teaches them to become more tolerant and to embrace other cultures. We’re empowering children to be active global citizens, respecting differences.
Classroom activities can include children writing blogs to share their life experience: their religion, their family or their parents’ work to build global and cultural awareness. Teachers can post a specific topic area in which they are interested in working, and teachers across the world can find a match for their own areas of interest.
My recommendation to schools is to look to embrace social media as a wonderfully diverse education resource while respecting the laws on underage use of the standard social media platforms. Social media is an increasingly important part of children’s lives, so it is important to educate them on the benefits, and risks. Furthermore, social media can be an exciting way to encourage learning. Step into the engaging and interactive world of social media and global content sharing by investing in the available cross-curricular, safe and controlled social media environments. And through this, educate your students and empower them to become active global citizens.

Source: http://seenmagazine.us/  By Warren Kobbeltvedt