Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Facebook in the classroom

Facebook has become the leading social network platform in the world. This media is now used for information sharing, marketing, business, identity platforms, social connections, dating and much more. As with anything that is used too much or too often, and just like many places in the world or in society, negative aspects do arise. The truth is, social networking is not going to disappear any time soon. So how do we as teachers channel positive energy into a medium that holds negative aspects, and how do we use this popular social network in our own teaching? Facebook, or social networking as a whole, has become one of the most controversial subjects surrounding adolescents. Because of the strong focus on the negative aspects of a platform like Facebook, the potential positive uses and learning potential has been greatly overlooked.
    As a future ESL teacher I can see this medium used in many ways. In the classroom, Facebook can be used as an information hub for the class and parents, where information on the class, assignments, resources and discussions can be held collectively to further provide educational tools inside and outside the classroom. Facebook use encourages, reading and writing in both a native or second language,  sharing of ideas across the globe, and cultural awareness i.e. language, customs, beliefs. I see using social network platforms, that some adolescents are already so familiar with, as a way to engage them in writing, reading and using the language in meaningful ways that help them to learn. Using these resources in the classroom also teaches valuable technology skills to students who may not have prior access. For bilingual students or recent immigrants, Facebook can be used to stay connected with the home country while also providing continued use of their first language.
    The most obvious dangers surrounding Facebook evolve from denial and restriction of use by parents, which can lead to an uninformed entrance to the world of Facebook by adolescents. Since so many schools and businesses today use Facebook as a filtering system, by highlighting strengths, we can help students build strong and positive Facebook platforms of themselves, and use Facebook like an extended media resume or portfolio of the self. By teaching children the dangers and consequences that result from poor choices made on the internet, we can begin to use these valuable resources as tools in the classroom and in society as a whole.
     As an introduction,  the class could create a page together, where the students learn of the various settings and rules, functions and components, and become familiar with the valuable amenities that the medium has to offer. With the knowledge we hold of how popular social networking cites like Facebook are, and the notion that they will be used by adolescents, we need to address the social fears and problems that are intertwined in the medium to teach our children how to safely and tactfully use these available resources, by discussing current events on the subject, and addressing students concerns and questions. By setting examples for effective and productive use of social networking, we can prevent many of the problems that cause so much of the negative critiques toward it. Therefore, the job and duty of parents and teachers is to bring the positives and the negatives to the forefront of a child's attention and channel energies into the more positive aspects. In the twenty first century technology and media are becoming more important in the daily lives of people. As teachers, it is our job to not only teach academic subject matter to our students, but also to teach life skills. With this ever growing dependency on technology to perform tasks and skills in the world, addressing these platform’s uses is a crucial life skill in today's day and age. The pros outweigh the cons when it comes to social networking platforms used by adolescents. Once we have effectively taught students how the media works and how they can use it productively in their lives, the education process can begin.

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