Social media can be a tool for political and social change, it can also be a powerful aid in the classroom. Connecting people from different corners of the world breaks down barriers.
In Saskatoon in the middle of Canada, these primary school children from St Angela’s Elementary School are going to Brazil – via the internet. They link up with other children all over the world to collaborate on projects, ask each other questions and send each other videos. Today they’re talking about racism.
Anna, one of the puils, explains: “When you read a text book it tells you about what the land, the geography, the climate is like. But when you’re actually talking to them and getting the information from word of mouth, and not from an encyclopaedia, it’s kind of like you’re getting the full story.”
The children also make videos about issues like the environment and upload them. For these children, leisure and learning have moved a step closer to each other.
While social media can bring teachers together, it can also divide them. Not everyone agrees on how to use these tools in class. To know more about the controversy surrounding social media and how to use it, euronews spoke to the digital toolmaker, John Davitt:
Question: “Social media as the name implies, are for being social and building networks, but people can become addicted and isolated instead. What is your advice on this?”
John Davitt: “The big question of course is do we want to live in the electronic or the printed world? And the only answer that I can come up with is we want our students and ourselves to live powerfully in both worlds. But we don’t want kids being shut in their rooms with a computer, so that’s why I underline that the ultimate learning resource doesn’t have a plug attached, it isn’t a mobile device, because it is another human being, ideally sitting next to you at the moment that you don’t understand something. But the next best thing is the ability to access and communicate at a distance using tools like social media.”
Question: “Facebook and other social networks break down the walls of the classroom, but isn’t it a wild dangerous world out there on the web?”
John Davitt: “I think it is. I think that this increases the responsibility of the teachers to understand but not necessarily to be beside their pupils as they sirf the net. I am not necessarily a great devotee of any social networking site. I think some of the rules on Facebook are genuinely troubling or worrying. The notion that if you post your images on to a site then they are owned by the company, for example. So I think we need to be perhaps a little bit more savvy in our use of these media.”
Some people think that social media are time consuming, and can isolate students and expose them to loss of privacy. To find out how teachers raise awareness about the pros and cons of these networks, we went to the Rudolf Steiner School in Dusseldorf, Germany.
The school has a definite, deliberately-constructed presence on the internet, with its own website, as well as spaces on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The students upload content and the teachers act as moderators. They are all very much aware of privacy issues.
One student explained that 20 years ago the Stasi spied on people’s private lives, but that nowadays young people often upload all the details of their private lives onto social media – meaning that in some ways Facebook and the Stasi are the same!
Andrea Vogelgesang, a education assistant at the school added, “Facebook is like posting a page from your secret diary and pasting it up in a public place like a railway station so that anyone can read it. Children are not aware of that when they are on Facebook. They think it is an intimate space but in reality it is public.”
Furthermore some teachers fear that social networks can result in children having only superficial contacts rather than close real life friendships.
Peter Lutzker, a secondary school teacher said: “What concerns me is the amount of time people spend on the web. And as a teacher I sometimes miss a depth of communication that I think internet can discourage. Social networks in particular don’t encourage the in-depth communication which I feel is so important for young people at this age.”
So social networking can be a great teaching tool, as long as it is balanced with other learning tools and privacy is protected. Social networks also keep people in contact with their schoolmates long after they’ve left school and moved on into adult life – which can’t be a bad thing.