Why I Want My Students Using Social Media: Reason #2 - Crowdsourcing & Connecting

Thursday, February 18, 20163:17 PM

All of us are smarter than one of us. I feel like a broken record with that line sometimes, but I think it’s one of the most important lessons I can teach my students. In a world where we can basically connect with anyone anywhere at anytime, knowledge takes on a new meaning. We are no longer restricted by the resources available to us when everyone is an expert in something. Reason #2 for why I want my students using social media is to connect with the world and crowdsource knowledge. For more, read last week’s post on Reason #1: Community.

There’s still value to memorization because there are simply things we have to know. It’s when students use that knowledge for application, synthesis, and creation that the memorization pays off. But when the world is at our fingertips and Google has become a verb, we need to teach students how to use these tools effectively so that they aren’t only relying on technology, but are doing so in meaningful and purposeful ways. Additionally we need to teach students how to sift through the bad information, the white noise, and repetition of the world wide web along with the valuable skills of digital citizenship. Using social media is an authentic and powerful way to help teach these skills and responsibilities.

As a professional, I always try to improve my practice and have often used Twitter to help me do so. When I have a question, I ask it online, use relevant hashtags, and connect with experts, colleagues, and strangers to try to develop my knowledge further. The power of connection is exponential in this regard; my followers might see my tweet but with a strategic hashtag or retweet, hundreds of views quickly become thousands or more. I’ve done it right here on the Schoenblog on more than one occasion--see Crowdsourcing Memes for Student Feedback, Crowdsourcing #Edcamp Advice: Building a Better #edcampMVille, and Crowdsourcing #Edtech Advice for New Teachers.

What to Value in Social Media

In my first post in this series (Reason #1: Community), I mention the challenges and struggles in asking students to use social media, and here is one of them: in our instant gratification culture and social-media obsessed students, followers, likes, and retweets are often confused with popularity and quality.

In my experience, however, teaching students to learn how to navigate the world of social media and hashtags to enhance their connections is the most valuable tool to making expert connections. For example, 100 retweets from random followers might generate views, but 3 retweets by tweeting at experts or using the right hashtags has much more power, effect, and potential for learning. We can’t forget about these aspects of social media literacy and digital citizenship in building these skills and connections into our schools and practice.

Additionally, we have to teach students to evaluate sources in both traditional and new formats. Critically evaluating the objectivity of an article or primary source is a typical skill in our classrooms and also needs to be applied to the world of web 2.0. If anyone can create and add supposed knowledge, it’s more important ever to be able to identify accurate and meaningful sources across all mediums and publications, both print and digital.

Image courtesy of annaisd.org

The Connection Conundrum

So far this school year, my students have not really made these connections. There are many reasons why: some resistance to my emphasis on social media; a lack of authentic purpose; scaffolding other skills, and more. So far, I’ve focused on having my students explore social media to share their learning, telling our story, and building community. Now, with our #GeniusHour projects, students will start to seek out those connections to find experts to guide their research and progress. Maybe I’ll return to this topic in a few weeks and readdress its successes, challenges, and how I’ve addressed them.

Still, like with any learning, scaffolding is essential to build new skills. To set my students up for making purposeful and powerful connections, I model this constantly. When my students ask a question in class that I can’t answer, sometime I’ll Google it, but other time I’ll tweet the question. Once in a while, I’ll ask them to do the same. I also make constant references back to past connections student have made, like the student who asked an astronaut questions on Twitter about life on Mars for 20% Time last year. I use these past examples to promote brainstorming, model examples, and hopefully seed future success. Together, we are crowdsourcing our own knowledge and contributing to a body of knowledge that wasn’t possible previously. Next, I hope students can explore this to further their individual interests and studies to find chats, experts, and resources through the power of social media.

As a starting point, I’ll ask students to tweet out an example of our learning with both our class hashtag (#SchoenTell) and a relevant hashtag for the lesson. Last week, students tweeted out their passion project topics with the hashtag #GeniusHour. This small moment of sharing builds community among them all--we can search #SchoenTell and see the different passions and interests of all of my students--but also helps make connections to the larger world of passion-based learning for teachers and students. Next, I’ll organize links to student blogs and share them with hashtags like #GeniusHour, #20Time, and #engchat to find classes and teachers to share with to make these meaningful connections.

Why Connect?

We are all geniuses in our own right and experts in different ways. Through social media, I want my students to connect with the world (and with you!) to help develop their genius and to learn more. When students think they can Google anything--and often can--it’s important that they learn how to connect with real people, ask meaningful questions, and seek out resources beyond the first page of search results.

By leveraging students use of social media for learning and connecting, we can make their learning more meaningful and create more learning from a variety of sources and resources faster, more efficiently, and better than ever before, as long as we don’t forget the essential skills of evaluating, critical thinking, and digital citizenship that come hand-in-hand with curation, connection, and crowdsourcing.

How do you use social media in your classroom? Follow our social media journey with @SchoenTellOHS or #SchoenTell. Share your ideas in the comments below or on Twitter.

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