Somewhere along the line, the tide started to turn regarding opinions on the place of social media in the classroom and as a conduit for connecting teachers and students. Whether those making policy have seen reason or whether the market reached an inescapable saturation point, I’m unsure.
Yes, arcane policies are in place in districts and schools across the U.S., drafted in fear that’s been labeled protection. Still, the more teachers I talk to and schools and districts I visit, the more social technologies are becoming commonplace in formal educational settings.
My own interactions first started in this space. Then, my students started asking for my myspace address. I had a page, but I was a novice teacher and was listening more to the fear I heard in the conversations around me about connecting with students online than my own argument for the affordances of such connections. Eventually, I made a second myspace page and shared that with students. It was bland and more often than not included updates having to do with homework rather than whatever we’re supposed to use those spaces for.
When I moved to teach in Philadelphia, regional standards dictated Facebook be my new online home.
“What do you mean you don’t have a Facebook,” my students asked me in my first few days. I’d moved from an environment where even connecting with my students through a profession-specific online profile was questioned to a space where it was abnormal not to connect with students through your one true Facebook page.
I had a profile within the week. My rule persisted. If they were still my students, they needed to invite me to be friends, I wouldn’t seek them out. This wasn’t out of fear, but of respect. Facebook was their common space. Though I saw its use for leveraging learning, I respected the division of school and home.
In my four years at SLA, Facebook, IM, email, twitter, et al. proved invaluable tools for helping students navigate assignments and offering them a safe space to seek counsel.
But this is an old conversation in the compressed timespace of online tools.
Today, I was reminded of another reason for teachers and students to be connected online. One of my former students, Matt, lost his father a few years ago. A tremendous human being, Matt looked up to his father in the most touching of ways. Matt’s now a freshman at university in Philadelphia (half the country away from me).
Today, on Facebook, Matt announced he’d completed a media project for one of his courses, saying:
Exporting a wonderful film I made for my Dad now @ the tech center on Temple Campus. It may not meet all the requirements, but I put so many hours into it, I don’t care if I get a C, I am proud of what I made! It is really nice =)
I chimed in that I looked forward to seeing the film. Minutes later, he posted a link to the video below in the comment thread. It is a beautiful memorial to Matt’s father and grandfather. I am proud of him for its creation and for his own pride in that creation.
This is the benefit of social media in education that’s not often mentioned. I am connected to those students I was fortunate to have in my care. Ten years ago, the end of the school year was the end of my interactions with most of my students.
That needn’t be the case anymore. Connections between teachers and their students are no longer bound by 180 days. The impacts we make and made can be seen, felt, and built upon indefinitely. I was a small piece of Matt’s life and the lives of all my students. Still, I realized today the connection I am able to continue to have with so many of them as they grow and build lives more incredible than I could have hoped.
Social media – +1