It wasn’t that long ago when cell phones, computers and pretty much all things digital were viewed as pure distractions in the classroom.
The table seems to be turning, however, and some educators increasingly see these tools as platforms to increase student engagement, develop key skills for employment and even help build a brand for the class, the teacher and the school itself.
At the Social Learning Summit hosted by the American University Social Media Club last week, teachers and students gathered to discuss what was - and wasn’t - working in creating an integrated digital classroom.
Some of the examples that speakers and attendees highlighted included:
- Twitter streams coinciding with in classroom debate
- Dedicated class hashtags that serve current, potential students as well as alum
- Sharing updates about class news via Facebook
- Creating homework assignments in which students must not only share news or information relating to the class topic, but pithy comments on why they agree or disagree when sharing a link.
Though success of this integration includes chances for alum, and professional thought leaders to contribute to the conversation, as well as an opportunity for quieter students to engage more effectively, many of these forays into a digital classroom are trial and error. The challenges are as abundant as the opportunities.
There is clearly more work to be done in order to use these platforms as tools that don’t just promote sharing, but foster real dialogue and debate.
Ultimately, when incorporated effectively social media platforms can add to a robust classroom experience. So students, professors and alum: whip out that cell phone, open those browsers and try it out. Just a few ideas to bear in mind:
- Brainstorm and Strategize: Students and teachers should collaborate on class goals and needs when incorporating social media for the classroom experience.
- No one tool can do it all: Blackboard has been a traditional tool schools have authorized to post classroom assignments and news. But depending on class goals, size and dynamics, incorporating multiple platforms ensures all students can participate in the online conversation and not be forced into one platform. This is a classic rule of “meet them where they are.”
- Monitor & Measure: This is a new phase, so understanding your objectives and evaluating them after each semester is crucial to improving on the ecosystem you’ve created.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the first annual Grad Nation Summit, hosted by Gen. (ret.) Colin and Alma Powell’s organization, America’s Promise Alliance. Leaders in education, business, non-profits and policy were in attendance, many of whom gave compelling speeches at plenary and break-out sessions. Registration was free and open to the public and the event was beautifully executed.
Their key message was clear: 1.2 million students drop out every year—that’s 7,000 students per school day—1 student every 26 seconds. This is both an economic and moral crisis and it will take all Americans to solve this problem.
As education reform has increasingly become front and center in the eyes and ears of the nation, many wonder what it will take to raise our status in the world. This event, the US Department of Education’s blueprint for ESEA reauthorization and the general buzz from those “tuned in” to these issues have suggested the following as keys to improving our public education system:
1.) National service has a huge role to play in the education reform movement. Non-profits and community-based organizations (CBOs) that work to advocate and care for young people need to be more closely engaged as reform cannot only be done at the school or policy level.
2.) No education reform will be taken seriously without smart metrics and decision-making that is based on credible data and stalwart transparency and accountability.
3.) All states need to adapt core curriculum content and write standards that truly prepare students for college and career. Assessments need to be more clearly aligned to these standards and measure students more holistically than they do at present.
4.) A culture that promotes high expectations, rigorous curriculum, excellent leadership and highly-effective teachers is what closes achievement gaps and improve public education.
5.) Embrace previously unconventional ideas as part of the solution: expanded learning time, school-based healthcare, vocational training, industry-themed charter schools, full-day kindergarten, year-round school and hybrid and blended learning environments.
Given the unique setting of Washington, D.C., we are often advising our clients to be mindful of policy decisions and deliberations, impact of national budget negotiations and other major legislative actions. With the current outlook in education, we must also advise our clients to pay close attention to emerging trends in education reform and the implications it has on our country’s future and our global competitiveness.
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