From Facebook to Social Learning Networks: Overcoming the fear of social media in schools

It is time that we expand our conception of social networking services beyond that of  Facebook.  New digital platforms have been developed that support a safe solution to integrating social media into schools. These digital platforms are set apart from Facebook in that these platforms are designed for schools and learning. Called “social learning networks,” platforms such as iRemix and Edmodo are designed to enable schools and educators to create closed, private social networking services while also allowing schools to customize settings according to the school’s needs.

This mini plug for social learning network platforms is needed. Recently, I read in Edutopia’s New Teachers Forum a discussion thread about what to say in a job interview. A teacher candidate was visited at his/ her university by a group of principals and superintendents that gave advice for how to interview for a teaching position. One of the recommendations  was NOT to discuss using social networking services for learning. It’s understandable why school administrators would not want teachers using open platforms such as Facebook.  Privacy is very hard to maintain and activity on these platforms such as Facebook are hard to supervise.

Our worst fears about social media are realized when we hear stories such as those related to cyber bullying.

When we do not have time and access to information that is connected to the latest technological learning tools that are available, we rely on our own personal experiences using social media services such as Facebook and what we consume from the media about social networking services.

However, integrating social learning platforms into schools enable opportunities for administrators, teachers and youth to design interactions that are respectful and promote learning. Through positive interactions with both peers, teachers, mentors and even a broader community of members, social learning networks have the potential to promote greater access for all children to participate and learn. Teachers can reposition themselves on line as mentors, facilitating conversations, and perhaps participating as well. Experts from outside the schools can become members and join in on conversations and give feedback.  (For more information on creating an expert learning network, see The Educurious Expert Network (TEEN) that uses the iRemix platform).

New teachers and innovative expert teachers must be courageous!

Lisa Michelle Dabbs, the moderator in the New Teacher forum challenged new teachers to take a professional stand and have the courage to help communicate to administrators the benefits of using social media as well as the tools and research that support how using these platforms can promote learning in schools. We need new teachers to be the leaders in integrating innovative digital tools into schools. Administrators need to recognize and support the abundant knowledge and expertise that new teachers bring to the school and mentor, guide the development of safe and effective social learning networks. We all need to stay current, informed and open to bringing our schools into the digital age!

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