The Relevant Classroom

social networking, education, classroomMamacita says:  How updated and relevant do you want your doctor’s skills to be?  Would you be content with a dentist who graduated in 1985 and hasn’t updated a single skill since then?  Could you trust your children to a pediatrician who used mercury-filled thermometers and leeches?  Hey, those methods worked in the past.  Good enough then.  Etc.

Just as the best medical professionals continually update their skills and knowledge, so must our educators.  One thing that helps educators keep current is. . . . . . . . .. .

Technology.  Specifically, the social networking sites.  Yes, in school.  Yes, for education.  Social networking is a hands-on approach to learning, and if our students can put their hands on something, they’re likely to remember it.  It works for science, and it will work for everything else, too.

Using a Twitterwall in my classroom has made an amazing difference.  When we discuss a reading, for example, I hashtag it and project the conversation on the wall.  Anyone following our hashtag can follow our conversation, and participate.  Students sitting in the back of the room who would never in a million years contribute or participate, will join a Twitterwall conversation; with the wall, they can maintain their shyness or privacy and yet still speak out, without drawing attention to themselves.  Students at home can still participate, as can their parents.  Administration can participate.  Authors can participate.  Scientists can participate.  Astronauts.  Farmers.  Lawyers.  global education, social networkingGrandparents.  A savvy educator can Skype lectures, and combine classes with an educator in China, real-time.  To see people who aren’t even members of the class participate in a lesson can turn a lesson from ordinary to awesome.  And that’s just one aspect of social networking in education!

Tech will not make a mediocre teacher better – nothing will. Mediocrity is a personal choice, and today’s standardization obsession is a blessing only to the mediocre or worse. But a good teacher can become great if he/she understands that we must keep ourselves updated, relevant, and as cutting edge as possible if we are to keep our students motivated, engaged, and interested.

A doctor who chooses to maintain the status quo and not keep updated is dangerous. A teacher who chooses to maintain the status quo and not keep updated is equally dangerous. One can kill the body, and one can kill the spirit.

Sweet old Miz Jones, who hasn’t updated her skills since she graduated years ago, and who loves each kid as if it were her very own,  isn’t always the best teacher. Mean ol’ Miz Jones, who expects and requires each kid to do his/her best, behave properly, and utilizes any and every means possible to engage her students, might not be, either, but at least she’s trying harder.   A great teacher can accomplish great things with a stick and a patch of dirt, but this same teacher can accomplish even greater things if he/she is connected.

Perhaps it also depends on the context of the classroom, too – the age of the students, etc. I was never comfortable with a sweet, motherly teacher even as a small child; I wanted someone who challenged me and exposed me to the wonders of the universe and then stepped back, left me alone,  and let me explore. Then again, I was an avid reader, and that makes a world of difference.

All of education is about connections, and the social networking sites are (as of today) the ultimate connectors. Not to utilize them is to deny yourself and your students an awesome opportunity to connect the dots from one topic to another with amazing rapidity. In the old days it took a village to raise a child; in our time, the village has become a universe, and the child raised by the universe has far more advantages than a child raised by a lowly village.

Yes, there are good teachers who don’t use tech, but think how much better they might become if they would open their eyes and use the technology their students are already using.

Oh, educators, let’s all try our best to help our students understand that the electronics they use to connect themselves with others socially are also excellent means to connect themselves with learning opportunities.  To do this, we as educators must learn to use these means ourselves.

Not to move forward is to move backwards.  Or to stand still, which is much the same thing.

And we’ve all had Mr. Ditto, at least once in our school years:


The Relevant Classroom — 1 Comment

  1. Mr. Voulangas – world history – 11th grade. Handed out maps of the changing empires and had us color them in while he sat in the back and read the NYTimes. Imagine the stories he could have told us while we were covering the globe with orange for the Ottoman Empire.

    Love the notion of a tweetwall…. wish everyone could sit in YOUR classroom!

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