Teacher-student relationships in the age of social networks

That education and social media share borders and encroach on each other’s spheres of influence should come as no surprise. On the one hand, education as we know it is largely a social engagement in itself, involving teachers (the conduits for new cognitive experiences) and students (the learners of new or restructured knowledge). On the other hand, social media is both a technological tool for communicating different ideas and an enriching environment for collaboration. Therefore, the benefits that social media can bring to contemporary education can be enormous indeed. In fact, it is now very easy to imagine a virtual classroom that combines the current platforms of the most innovative online universities with the powerfully engaging and personal experience of social media. How the learning dynamics are affected by this theoretical setup is an open question, but it is a possibility that may already have been established in one form or another.

While the exciting, positive benefits of using social media in education is a topic that can generate lively discussion, the serious ethical issues that arise from their merging inspire a much more heated debate. In July of this year, the state of Missouri enacted a law that prohibited students and teachers from being friends or contacts on social networks like Facebook. However, after a clamor from teachers who felt the legislation violated their fundamental rights, the original bill was significantly amended, eventually giving individual school districts the freedom to set their own social media policies.

Both sides of the argument have compelling merits. It’s no secret that social networks have become a virtual backdrop for inciting various crimes ranging from bullying, extortion and sexual assault. That there are people with criminal intentions who use social networks to plan and carry out their caper series is clearly undeniable. There are quite a number of disturbing stories about them that we encounter almost every day.

In addition, some psychologists and social scientists believe that removing the traditional student-teacher relationship from the classroom can have serious consequences. When placed in the highly informal environment of most social networks, the traditional authority of teachers can be eroded to the point that classroom engagement is among peers, not between teachers and students, whose roles and expected behavior are clearly defined .

The many possible types of interactions in social networks, such as B. liking a particular hobby, organization, or place can also lead to inappropriately close relationships between teachers and students. Additionally, providing one-on-one messages between friends or contacts may even encourage sexual misconduct.

However, the danger of social media is very real. However, if we only focus on the risks, we will miss its true potential as a teaching tool/environment. After all, wherever a sizable group of people congregate, there are bound to be some criminally minded people, whether online or not. While social media gives criminal elements anonymity and a cloak of security, there are ways to circumvent, limit, or expose their schemes without outright banning the use of social media in education. This would unfairly curtail the tremendous benefits that social media can bring to the learning experience.

A good example of this. A social media pilot program for 7th graders was conducted in a classroom in Portland, Oregon. The results were amazingly clear:

1. Schoolwide, 20 percent of all students completed and submitted additional assignments, even if those assignments did not give them bonus points.

2. Grades went up more than 50%.

3. Chronic absenteeism was reduced by more than 33%, enabling the school organization to meet its absenteeism reduction goals for the first time in its history.

In short, closer collaboration and easier means of communication encouraged students to be more involved. Meanwhile, the highly engaging environment of social media enabled students to perform better.

Banning social media in education will prevent schools, teachers and students from reaping the phenomenal benefits. A few decades ago, the internet created a very similar educational milestone. Many schools were reluctant to implement an Internet connection in the 1990s for fear of leaking unwanted Web content to their student body. However, as Karl Meindhart, the developer of Portland’s social media program, commented, “There was this thing called the internet that got a lot of buzz, and the school administration was adamant about allowing access… The big fear was pornography.” and predators, some of the same things that exist today. And yet…can you imagine a school that is now not connected to the internet?

In another demonstration of technology helping teaching become great, in May 2011 the New York Times ran an article about how a group of English teachers are using Twitter-like messaging technology that encourages 11th graders to to freely communicate their ideas on various subjects, something that without the new technology might just go unspoken. For example, instead of verbally expressing their opinions on a poem, students and teachers collaborate and have discussions using the messaging tool that makes it easy for everyone – including those who have the unreasonable but societally common fear of speaking in front of people – -to freely share their opinion. For all the teachers who conducted the experiment, social media tools like group chats are great teaching aids that give a voice to students who don’t even dare to raise their hands during a recitation session.

Another plus for social media as a learning tool is that most are free to use and many can be configured to limit the potential for inappropriate behavior. Kidblog.org, Edmodo, and Edublogs are just a few of the school-ready social media platforms built specifically for academic use.

Social media – like email and the internet – have clearly already become an integral part of people’s daily lives. Furthermore, social media is already being used by some innovative teachers to enhance their students’ learning experience, although its unanimous acceptance by the education system is still tenuous. However, caution and common sense are essential for teachers who intend to use social media tools in their classroom. At the very least, the right balance between effective use of social media and behavioral boundaries should be maintained as much as possible. One way to do this is to create formal social networking communities or groups where the teacher does not have to “friend” or follow a student. Keeping all communication within the community site will help keep teachers and students from getting too “personal”. In fact, any other means of making communication transparent within a given group will reduce the incidence of inappropriate behavior.

As social media is here to stay, it’s only a matter of time before its powerful sharing, collaboration, and teaching tools are officially adopted by many forward-thinking educational institutions. Over time, social networks will become another technology that teachers can use to share knowledge with their students. Even then, the bottom line is that it isperson the use of the technology – not the technology itself – being responsible for any misuse that occurs through it. This consistent fact (as may apply to similar means of communication such as handwritten letters, telephones, and emails) requires all enterprising teachers of the future to develop a social media strategy that allows them to leverage their benefits while simultaneously expanding their potential limit risks.

Thanks to Michael Hines | #Teacherstudent #relationships #age #social #networks

Check Also

An open letter to my sales manager

An open letter to my sales manager

Dear sales manager, How many times have I heard you say that you want me …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *