Social Networking Does Not Have to Equal Social Media

Social media and social networking do not have to be considered synonymous.  While in most aspects, these two types of sites are the same thing, their integration into classroom teaching can be completely different.  When a person thinks of social media, they will typically think first of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  While these sites can have a place in education, I, as well as many other teachers, have been reluctant to integrate them in my classroom.  Social networking, on the other hand, has a specific implication of sharing resources and making connections with others in order to increase each other’s knowledge and understanding.  There are some incredible websites out there ready for the betterment of our students’ education.  Some of these sites include Wikispaces (a place for students to share their own creations), Twiducate (a network for classrooms to share ideas and resources with each other), and Minecraft EDU (a game for students to create and share digital creations with others).  Looking at sites like these, a teacher doesn’t need to feel reluctant about integrating social networking into the classroom.  This doesn’t need to be figuring out a way to make use of Facebook or Instagram.  These sites take the most useful elements of other social media sites and heighten student learning.

For my own classroom, the reluctance I’ve felt for integrating social networking has always been the necessary groundwork for using them wisely with teenage students.  When a teacher’s time is limited, it’s difficult to go through the steps of finding the best and most secure way to integrate social networking.  How do I make sure each student is able to easily and safely log-in?  How do I monitor student work and behavior on the site?  How do I know that this is the best use of our class’s time?  But the reality is that many of these sites are specifically designed to make the procedure simple, effective, and safe for teachers to use.  Knowing this, so much more can be done with the classroom than ever before.  My goal now is to find the best social networking sites for each student to share resources and collaborate.  But more importantly, I want to conduct a few projects using these sites in order to observe just how much of an impact they can make for student learning.  I would also like to use the information I receive from social networking integration to share with my colleagues which sites are most effective.  The reality is, education cannot continue as an isolated classroom using the same resources day after day.  All students need to be given the opportunity to interact with each other without walls, using as many helpful resources as are available.

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