Children and teenagers are more connected than ever before. Smartphones are as essential today as pencil boxes were just a few decades ago, but that constant connectedness has proven to be a challenge for the teachers and administrators who must compete with social media and text messages for students’ attention.

 

However, just as all negatives have a positive side, there is an upside to social media when it comes to classroom education.

 

Edmodo, a social network for schools, has created a way to leverage social media to help teachers stay connected to their students for educational purposes.

 

Social Media

 

Our modern education system often finds teachers mired down in the constraints of standardized educational requirements and testing. Edmodo allows teachers to break out of that cycle and reach students on their level, in an online environment that is comfortable to them. It provides a places where teachers and students can share educational videos, software, and information that supplements their classroom learning, but feels much more like Facebook.

 

Edmodo founder Nic Borg recently spoke to Wired.com about his social network. He said, “K-12 is an incredibly change-resistant system, and to be disruptive, you have to do it in the least disruptive way possible.” Borg’s idea has begun to catch on. Since its launch in 2008, the site has captured 35 million users including students, teachers, and parents. Over 60,000 schools have signed on including 91 of the 100 largest school districts in the country.

 

Social Media

 

Anyone who has ever tried to compete with a smartphone for a child’s attention knows that they are waging a losing battle. Kids are able to stay in real-time contact with their peers 24 hours a day. Trying to get children to log off Facebook and do their math has been an ongoing struggle for many teachers.

 

That conflict is mainly a product of the disparity between evolving technology and the classroom. Most schools find themselves years behind the curve in terms of adopting new technologies for learning purposes. In order for students to focus on schoolwork, they have had to close their computers and shut off their smartphones – pieces of technology that they use every moment they are outside the classroom. Many teachers and administrators are starting to agree that instead of fighting technology in the classroom, it’s time to embrace it.

 

Resistance May be Futile

 

There is always resistance to new technology. When automobiles started to become popular, there were plenty of people who believed they did not need a car – their horse and buggy would suit them just fine. Eventually, resistance became futile. Cars became essential.

 

In the 1980’s nobody disputed that pencil and paper were essential school supplies. As technology evolved, many schools began incorporating computers into the classroom.

 

Now, those computers are seen as essential school supplies.  As tablets came onto the market a few years ago, they were seen as a decadence or luxury. Now, that attitude is beginning to shift, and parents and teachers are beginning to see them as essential tools for learning.

 

Social Media

 

No one would dispute the fact that Facebook and other social media sites are often nothing more than a time waster. Most of us, regardless of age, check in on our friends and relatives, share interesting videos or news stories, maybe engage in some discourse in a group, but it’s not adding much in terms of education or enrichment in our lives.

 

Edmodo seeks to leverage the way we use social media to enhance traditional classroom learning. The platform is accessible via the web, iPad, iPhone, and Android phones and tablets. Teachers use the network to post assignments and digitally accept completed work.  They can develop online, interactive quizzes and share all forms of educational content, including videos.

 

Students are able to connect with their class either as a group, or engage in one-on-one discussions with their teachers, however, they are not able to chat directly to each other. Parents can “follow” the discussions to see what their children are learning, and receive group messages from teachers.

 

Teachers are also able to connect with one another, either directly or in group discussions. They can share ideas and learn from each other, and each year Edmodo hosts an annual web-only conference for teachers.

 

Educators can also share their personal tools with one another. If a teacher finds that a video series they’ve posted has been successful, they can share that series with other teachers, who can also use it with their own classrooms. The network takes the best of social media, and turns it into a medium where teachers can enhance their classroom teaching with new and interesting ways to learn, served up on a platform that is reminiscent of their favorite social networks.

 

Social Media

 

Everyone has their own opinions when it comes to modernizing the classroom, but as we blast through the 21st Century, it is becoming clear that the positives of incorporating technology into education far outweigh the negatives – it’s just a matter of knowing which elements to harness. When used with the proper reason, supervision, and vision, technology can be a powerful tool for improving learning experiences for children of all ages.

 

Social media is no exception. When used correctly it can enhance the classroom experience by:

 

  • Allowing teachers to collaborate and share ideas online.
  • Helping students develop research skills at a young age.
  • Providing students from all socioeconomic backgrounds to a vast expanse of learning material.
  • Allowing students to work at their own pace, and ask for help outside the eyes of their peers, rather than forcing kids to move ahead when they aren’t ready.

 

Technology’s role in education is vital, and the question for parents and educators is no longer if technology enhances learning, but how do we improve the use of technology and platforms like social media in order to enhance the learning experience.