I almost cringed as I typed that title because it sounds almost dated or old-fashioned at this point to be writing about the power of social media. The fact is, though, that the students seem to get it more readily than the adults (and I’m not generally one of those people who accuses the adults of being Luddites while the students are all a bunch of techno-savvy whiz kid cyber ninjas who will lead us to the promised land through their l33t skillz).
Our school needed to send out a technology survey. We’re at the point where no one wants to take class time to do the survey, and it’s not really something that the entire student body need to be required to do. The idea was to offer a raffle-type reward for completing the survey. The next was spreading the word about the survey. At this point, a student service club was asked to help. Their immediate reaction? “Give us the link. We’ll take care of it.”
The adult reaction? “Are you sure? Don’t you need to make flyers or something?”
Students: “No. Facebook, twitter, texting. We’ll get the word out.”
Of course, we adults are still concerned about equity issues and those students who don’t have technology being left out of the opportunity for the raffle. We’re putting in place some measures to ensure that everyone is informed about the survey and has the opportunity to complete it. I still think it’s telling that the students’ immediate reaction when getting the word out was to turn to social media.
For me, this represents something of a paradigm shift for my students. In past years, I’ve been preaching social media to them, but they’ve wanted to keep it separate from school and did not grok the way it could merge with more than just our social lives. In the last year, though, our school has actively used a Facebook page and a twitter account to disseminate information. Students have provided feedback (especially when they didn’t like the school’s decision to not cancel school for a snow storm) on the Facebook page and participated in discussion there. We’ve done a lib dub that was posted on youtube and went, at least locally, viral. All of these steps seem to have changed the way students viewed social media. In all of them, the adults and teachers jumped into the social media and began providing opportunity for the students to use it for more than their social lives. We led by example. As a result, it’s no longer weird or dorky for students to interact with their school lives via social media, and that is a good thing. Who knows… if we keep going at this rate, maybe they will lead us to the promised land?