September 14, 2015
Many people have bemoaned what they believe to be the negative impacts of social media, blogging, and video games. They believe these things create shorter attention spans, behavioral problems, encourage anti-social behavior, encourage the dissemination of misinformation, and often take the place of healthier pursuits such as exercise or imaginative play. While some of these items are true, there are also educational benefits to each of these when they are utilized correctly. However, recognizing some of these benefits requires rethinking the traditional top down model of distributing information that happens in formal education.
In the traditional educational model, the educator is the holder, distributor, and gatekeeper of information. The decide what information is taught, when it is taught, how it is taught, and they control the conversation. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on the accuracy of the information and the analytic abilities of the person consuming the information, students can now bypass the gatekeeper and find information on virtually every topic there is. Much of the information that is being consumed is being consumed from social media, and blogs. If educators are willing to be flexible in their roles, this can be used in a beneficial way in the classroom. It just requires changing the instruction model to one that encourages students to research and verify information, then facilitates, guides, and moderates discussion.
Of course, all of the above assumes that the only role a student has to play is receiver and processor of information. The nature of blogs and social media also allows students to be distributors of and contributors to streams of information. Again, this can only be successful if instructors are willing to change their roles slightly to assist and guide in the process of distributing information.
Here are some things that educators can do to encourage healthy consumption, analysis, contribution, and distribution of information.
What happens when you give a student a problem to solve and a piece of paper to write down the solution to that problem? What happens when you give a student a problem to solve and require that they enter their answer on a computer screen? The student solves the problem to the best of their abilities, and then relies on the instructor to tell them if they were right or wrong. It is a binary experience where the student either fails or succeeds, and the assumption is made that the student cares whether or not they fail or succeed. Now, what happens if a problem is introduced through a video game? The student works to solve the problem and they fail. Then, they work to solve the problem again. They fail again, and then adjust their strategy. They figure out where they went wrong and come up with different solutions. The result of this is that they are not only focused on getting the right answer, they are focused on developing problem solving skills. Students who are allowed access to educational video games also benefit from having instructors who are able to monitor and understand their thought process. One of the most compelling things about video games is that they create a personalized experience for the student. This means that the student is not locked into the progress of another student or the teacher's instruction model. It also means that the teacher can step back and coach, encourage, and educate. It means that the teacher can focus on tracking the video game of the student, without without losing focus on other needs.
5 young men begin to play an online video game with one another. Over their headphones, they curse at one another, they. They harass and tease one another. Some of this is good natured, and some isn't. When it is good natured, the level of cooperation and collaboration is amazing. Witnessing kids playing multi-player online games can be absolutely inspirational. They work together, they develop problem solving skills, and they also develop relationships with other kids simply because they are working towards a common goal.
So, what does this mean? This means that even if the use of video games in the classroom are strictly regulated, they can be a beneficial part of the classroom. These games can encourage interest in technology, teamwork, and highly focused thought processes.
Social media gives school staff the opportunity to use social media to help students learn, and establish their identities as students. If social media becomes verboten, it is treated as a pariah in the clas What this means is that instead of becoming a tool to develop conncections with other students, social media is defined as the enemy which must be left outside of the classroom.
This is a shame, because social media can be used as a tool in the classroom to teach manners, compassion, internet safety, communications skills, and other social graces. Unfortunately, teacher and parental biases and poor social media management for children have had a negative impact. This results in the loss of opportunities to use social media in in reasonable way in the classrom.