Technology knowledge and pedagogic skills add up to more productive classes. A surprising story shows how even old suspects can now become heroes. Did anyone say let’s get social?
This story can cause gasps in those who teach. So, if that’s your case, read it carefully… An English teacher, in Iowa (USA), uses Twitter as a weapon to improve group discussions in class. She is an example of a tendency among educators, that advocates the pedagogic advantages of social media like Twitter.
They are still a minority, but their ideas have strong arguments, as an article in The New York Times, about the Iowa teacher, recently told. “Last Friday, as some of her 11th graders read aloud from a poem called ‘To the Lady’, which ponders why bystanders do not intervene to stop injustice, others kept up a running commentary on their laptops.”
Is it strange that the students keep focused and even more interested with this process? Not for this teacher. “Instead of being a distraction — an electronic version of note-passing — the chatter echoed and fed into the main discourse, said Mrs. Olson, who monitored the stream and tried to absorb it into the lesson. She and others say social media, once kept outside the school door, can entice students who rarely raise a hand to express themselves via a medium they find as natural as breathing.”
Another English teacher listened in the story – Nicholas Provenzano, from a High School outside Detroit (USA) – agrees. “In a class of 30, only about 12 usually carried the conversation, but that eight more might pipe up on a backchannel. ‘Another eight kids entering a discussion is huge’, he noted.”
The large number of skeptics on this subject fear that “backchannels in classrooms will distract students and teachers, and lead to off-topic, inappropriate or even bullying remarks”. These risks, however, also exist in regular discussions in the classroom. Either way, social media can be an option for teachers to expand their possibilities, but only if they control the used tools.
How to better use social media new technologies in class is a fascinating subject, but one thing subsists ahead of any list of pros and cons: without digital inclusion for all, the discussion will only be for a small part of students and educators.