Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Social Networking in K-12 Education

While students in K-12 education are diving head first into the new Web 2.0, the schools in which they attend are dragging their feet in an attempt to steer clear of the countless privacy issues that seem to be coupled with the new World Wide Web. The students are going to use social networking tools whether we as educators encourage their use or not, even for things such as school assignments, homework, etc. K-12 educators need to seize this golden opportunity to reach and better teach students in their own digital environment using the tools of which they are already familiar including social networking sites, Web logs (blogs), and wikis.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, can be one of the most effective Web tools used to connect administrators, teachers, parents, and students that open many different lines of communication simultaneously, yet can be utilized for asynchronous communication and/or collaboration among participants. Blogs are one of the most utilized tools in K-12 education, and since the development of web log software, creating and updating a blog is now easier than ever. Educators have been using them for years for activities such as book discussions and dialogic homework. Others have simply used web log sites such as Blogger or Edublogs (both are free and extremely user friendly) to create classroom websites. Wikis have also become a familiar tool in the classrooms of tech-savvy teachers. They are easily edited so that students can update the information on their wiki pages to reflect the refinement of their knowledge and understanding. PBWiki, WetPaint, or Wikispaces are excellent websites for getting started.

With this new Read/Write Web comes many new literacies that the students of today will need to be fluent in to compete in the job market of tomorrow. If we, as educators, do not teach our students about these new literacies and how to effectively utilize them, we have done them a huge disservice. However, so many teachers are lacking in their own knowledge of the new literacies of the Read/Write Web that they are unable to pass the information along to their students. Teachers need to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge so that they can then share it with their students in order to prepare them for the future.



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