If you believe that technology is a distraction and not a way to enhance educational practices, you're probably not using it correctly.
• Why do we have to talk about technology so much?
• I'm too busy to use it.
• Isn't Twitter for Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift?
• Can't we just disconnect and move past this technology driven focus in education?
• Kids are so disconnected from school. All they care about is playing games on their computers.
There seems to be an issue with technology as well as social networking. There are those educators who are considered "connected" whom use it flawlessly every day. They weave it into their instruction and how they communicate with parents. No matter how busy they may be it has become an extension of their arm and they use it naturally in everything they do.
Some educators use it to the best of their knowledge. They integrate it as much as their comfort allows and really do work hard to get a better comfort level. Unfortunately there is another group who seem to ignore its benefits, and those educators can be found anywhere from kindergarten through the collegiate level. Technology has not engaged them and they resist the urge (or don't even have one) to try it out.
If you believe that technology is a distraction and not a way to enhance educational practices, you're probably not using it correctly. If you think that the rotary phone on the kitchen wall is good enough, you are seriously missing out. Don't get me wrong, I liked the phones you could hold with your ear and chin as you made dinner. Whether it's Skype, Twitter or Facebook, social networking can help sustain or build relationships with both family and colleagues.
However, more important than that is the part it plays in the lives of our students. Some educators believe that students do not know how to use their devices properly, which is probably true for a strong percentage of students. They believe that students think that those devices are only used to play games or connect with friends. To their point, that is exactly what we would expect students to think their devices are used for. Why would we expect anything else?
When we were kids, did we leave school every day thinking that we had to go home and do research. Homework was something that got in the way of our play. We wanted to go outside and play games or stay inside and play video games. As we grew older we wanted to connect with our friends by playing sports or talking on the phone. Suddenly, we became adults and expect all students to want to go home and do research.
Our job as educators is to build a bridge between what they use it for and what we want them to use it for. However, in order to do that we have to make sure that adults are prepared to use technology. They have to be prepared to speak the language of students, just like we wanted our teachers to speak our language when we were young.
It seems a bit unreal that using technology in the classroom is still such a hot topic. The reality is that it plays an important part in our lives and keeps us connected. We live busy lives so having multiple ways to connect with people is a strength and not a weakness. It's how we communicate that matters. Teaching students about the benefits and the pitfalls is important.
A Case for Social Networking
Twenty years ago one of my older brothers moved to Saudi Arabia to work on a defense security contract. Although he had not lived home in a long time it was really hard to see him go to the Middle East. At the time, the only way to talk to him was by phone and the lines were not always solid, not to mention the fact that the time difference didn't always help. My mom worked during the day and to call him in the evening meant an early morning phone call for him which was not always optimal. His weekends were Friday and Saturday which left us a day to try and connect. There were times when we spent hours trying to talk to no avail. Other times we would miss his call and we weren't sure when we would talk again.
In the end, we would talk with him about once a month because it cost $4.00 a minute to make the phone call. As you can imagine the phone calls were not long-winded so saying goodbye was not easy to do. Over time a friend gave me a calling card and we got the price down to about $1.00 a minute but that was very expensive to pay so often.
It's amazing to think back to that time, and the times we tried to communicate to no avail. He lives in Bahrain now and we have so many opportunities to connect. When he first moved to his new place in Bahrain we Skyped and he showed me around his flat and the view from his balcony. Although he was far away he seemed so close and that makes our family feel better about his being there.
When some educators look at technology they only see the fact that it's an extra thing on their plate. Some educators, which include administrators, dismiss it as a passing fad. They view it as another thing they have to get used to or learn about. When those of us who have family or friends spread around the world look at technology, we see it as an important way to keep a connection with someone who is so far away.
Educators need to stop being afraid or short-sighted when it comes to technology. Being the barrier because it doesn't coincide with your views isn't helping anyone. It's not helping students and it certainly isn't helping educational practices. Technology has a dark side but through education, students as well as teachers can learn about those negative aspects.
There are many who understand how important technology plays in our daily lives. It has keeps us close to family and friends who live far away and it has helped us make connections that have inspired us to change our practices. We flip our faculty meetings or classroom experiences and we are taking risks that we never thought were possible and seeing the benefits as well. Our students deserve to have the same experiences.
Connect with Peter on Twitter
More resources about social networking:
• Why Educators Should Join Twitter