By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga
There is currently a lot of discussion in school districts on the benefits of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Twiducate, and others. I’ve heard both sides of the argument and can certainly understand each side. Many believe that these new tools are a great way for teachers to stay in touch with their students. Others believe that communication over the Internet can be dangerous and hard to control.
There is no doubt that social networking sites are very popular. There is no doubt that social networking sites are easily accessible. It is possible, through these technologies, that students could have almost instantaneously responses to their questions and postings.
I would suggest that there are several questions to be answered by educational leaders considering these or similar tools in the classroom.
Does the use of these tools create an expectation that teachers will be “on call” for their students 24/7?
The wonderful thing about these tools is that a teacher can be notified and respond through a computer or cell phone. On one side, this is good because a student having difficulties with a homework assignment can reach his or her teacher. On the other side, should a teacher be expected to respond if she is out on the town having dinner with her family? If such an expectation evolved, would that be fair to the teacher?
Does the use of these tools require campus principals to monitor all communications?
Inappropriate language, inappropriate photos, and cyber bullying are all real issues that need to be dealt with when using these tools. Who is going to set the ground rules and protocols for use?
Will the use of these sites result in a higher student performance?
This question is difficult to answer without conducting thorough research. This is part of the reason why there is much debate. It can certainly be argued that this is yet another way to reach and engage students. Is the engagement alone enough of a reason to pursue the use of such sites?
Which site will your district use?
As with other technologies, there are many flavors of similar products. I personally prefer Facebook; however, someone else might prefer Twitter. Can you get all your students and teachers to use one product alone?
The one thing I can recommend, for sure, is that educational leaders personally familiarize themselves with at least two of these sites. One must know all about the features within these technologies in order to make an informed decision. It may be that these technologies work for a particular school district and not another. It is not until educational leaders “learn” more about these technologies that they will know for sure.
And isn’t learning what we are all about in education?