Cloe Shasha

Associate Content Producer, TED


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How can we change the schooling system in a way that acknowledges the impact of social networks on current students' exposure to knowledge?

In this current generation of elementary school through college students, almost everyone is using Facebook and other social networking websites.

These networks do more than facilitate social connections. Young people post their causes (such as getting one another to sign the open letter to stand with Planned Parenthood and getting involved in other world-related issues).

Social networks are, I believe, an asset and not a hindrance to the learning process. Textbooks, teachers, classroom settings, student projects, homework, and research methods should all be willing adapt in order to make use of our connection to peers around the world --- people with profiles of their own photographs, cultures, causes, music and art groups, and businesses.

But how should our educational system evolve in a way that best makes use of the availability of social networks?

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    Feb 27 2011: At first I didn't think I had anything to add to this thread because I figured the basics must have been covered by now, and so I breached my personal policy and read the thread before posting.

    First, I don't understand why certain posters are getting their backs up over the idea of supplanting the current education system with social media. If that is the level of reading comprehension that comes out of the existing education system, then maybe uprooting it isn't such a bad thing.

    Second, incorporating social media into begins with educating the teachers - and accepting that some are "not teachable". People are resistant to change, and teachers are not immune to fear and entrenchement, so yes, expect a certain percentage to dig in, dismiss the idea without even understanding the full range of options, and behave in general like the dinosaurs they are.

    Incorporating social media into the classroom can be as simple as using Youtube or Vimeo to provide useful and relevant examples of what is being discussed, or twitter or facebook to find experts in the specific field to hear directly from them, then inspiring students to contribute their own original content on a theme that is being studied, thereby engaging their imagination and skills so that education isn't merely a unidirectional flow, and a purely passive experience.

    Fuddy-duddies be damned, the world is moving on without you. It's not a case of adapt or die, but it is a case of figure out how to adapt it to useful purposes or enjoy your irrelevance.
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      Feb 27 2011: Thank you Gisela and well put!
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      Feb 27 2011: I agree. I can understand the resistance from some people, adopting something like this into the traditional education system amidst all the negative stigma.

      Social media networks aren't just for wasting time, lol'ing, and passing along Justin Bieber photos. It's just another conduit for radiating ideas and circulating information. It's definitely feasible to whip it into good practical use for any classroom setting, supplement your traditional curricula, even. Did people flip out when a few curious and daring educators motioned to include the internet into public schools?

      I like Giesla's examples. Facebook and Twitter might be irrelevant in a controlled classroom setting, but we shouldn't forget that even YouTube and Vimeo comprises of the social media mix. Even TED is on Youtube. Based on the notion of spreading ideas and challenging social mores, wouldn't it be brilliant to use a TED presentation to guide classroom learning? People can make social media relevant and useful, whatever the situation.
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    Feb 21 2011: I think it is broken into facets to begin with.
    1. First of all the older generation of Teachers needs to be more open to the way in which young people access their information. Facebook, TED, Youtube etc
    2. The fact that information is almost immediately accessible is a double edged sword in that unless we are willing to keep up with the speed in which the mediums are moving we will obviously see a gap getting bigger between Student and Teacher
    3. Acceptance of the fact that this is the direction the world is heading and then celebrate it's opportunity to learn

    Sir Ken Robinson said in one of his talks that, we are stimulated all day long by a barrage of exciting information and then we expect student to go and sit still in a class room and listen to someone drone on using uninspiring teaching methods of old fashioned mediums.

    We must be brave enough to make a radical change in the process. I believe that it's not the subject matter that we teach, it's how that matter is delivered which is not working.
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    Feb 27 2011: I would highly recommend the Jane McGonigal TED talk and her book on how Reality is Broken and games should be taking over, particularly in education. The Quest to Learn school in New York is particularly interesting. They have turned the whole shool curriculum into a questing game - the kids love it.

    I have also been bowled over by Ian Gilbert's book "Why do I need a teacher when I've got Google". A great and often irreverant analysis of how schools are failing kids. Humankind is going to generate more information in the next year than in the last 5000 years, so kids need to be taught how to search google, network, collaborate, cooperate, coordinate, and cocreate to find information, decide what is good information and then know how to use it. They need to become experts at iphone, ipad, android, and laptop use etc, pretty much all of which are banned in most schools as they are perceived as cheating!

    I have just finished teaching a professional course in Korea, during which I used Google Maps, Wikipedia and QWIKI to look up the answers to questions on the fly. It answered the questions and showed the students how to answer their own questions. Why should I be expected to know everything? Do you know everything? Should we expect our kids to know everything? Besides, knowing stuff doesn't help much if you have no critical or creative thinking skills.

    As Wayne said, teach the rules, and the principles and the concepts and work the rest out (or look it up on you smartphone).

    As I read in wikinomics earlier, a car is an amplification of my feet and a house is an amplification of my protective skin. I would add to that my smartphone is an amplification of my brain, and my social network is an extension of my support system. And systems only work when the parts are connected.
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    Feb 27 2011: It is the responsibility of all students and educators, to constructively challenge how and what we are taught towards the goal of refining the methods we use to teach and the content of any subject matter in question. Teach the rules and define the exception.
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    Feb 28 2011: Much of our current educational system is founded upon the assumption of the teacher being the primary source of information. The prevalence of high-quality information sources at everyones' fingertips makes this model obsolete. The most important role any teacher can play, therefore, is that of a "thinking coach:" helping students become sound thinkers, able to consider multiple views, evaluate their worth, and critically examine truth-claims.

    The connectedness of the internet elevates the need for critical thinking. In this glut of information, people need to be able to discern wheat from chaff, metaphorically speaking. Social media can serve as a tool for students to dialogue and debate ideas, over audiences far wider than previously possible -- effectively extending the boundaries of the classroom. The internet in general and social media in particular can also serve as a source of opinions for students to debate.
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    Feb 27 2011: Education is social. Human knowledge is a network. If tradition does not evolve, it will be difficult for the system to survive.
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    Feb 22 2011: Simple...child centered education.
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    Feb 28 2011: It's interesting that you began this conversation. I wanted to share some of the great responses that people posted on a similar thread that I started.
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    Feb 26 2011: As a student and web developer myself, I caught myself thinking about this very topic the other day. Although I think the educational system should be more open to utilizing social tools, the reason the education market hasn't naturally converged into using these tools is just simply they do not add much value when it comes to school work yet.

    It is hard to use Facebook and Twitter in the classroom, because interacting with one's friends is, at the very core, very very different from interacting with one's classmates. Tools like blackboard, and other educational software are very slow, unimaginative, and not up to par to current web development standards.

    So, to answer you question, its not so much that the educational system is not trying to take advantage of this new technology, but the technology itself is lacking. Therefore, more money should be invested in developing well designed social tools that integrate seamlessly with both current social networks and school settings before anything else can be done.

    But I do agree with you, social networks will become assets in ones education in the future, because the possibilities are endless. :) And, once that happens we'll have an education boom like no other.
  • Feb 25 2011: One good way to dispose of social media and to render it instantly as boring and dry as a social studies class would be to get the current educational establishment involved . You cited just one example of the egregious abuse inherent in educators overseeing the herding of children into social media. Having children signing letters for teacher's pet social cause is not education. Having children who should be using ALL their available time to learn the basis of language ,science, math,and ecomomics, and not frottering it away on internet frolicking (which they will do on their own time anyway). Social media, despite all its general usefulness, is not the platform for serious childhood learning and development. At school it is a substantial abridgement of the available time children need to learn trully difficult fields of study.
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      Feb 26 2011: I believe thats a rather shallow way of looking at the connection between education and social media. After all, getting an education is inherently a social experience. As Facebook has proven, social media is here to connect people in places where they couldn't before, because in the internet there is no distance. Everything is seconds away from you.

      Social tools, employed the right way, would allow students to study better, faster, and create more connections between different topics by allowing students to ask each other questions and receiving instant feedback from their classmates.

      Because of the way these tools work, a classroom of 500+ students, common in many college freshman courses, could easily collaborate with the same ease as a classroom of 30 students would. Students in that live in low income areas, such as in africa(through the one laptop per child or community lan houses, for example), could more easily communicate and improve their education. And these are only two examples of how social media could have real impacts in education.
      • Feb 26 2011: Social media , especially when proffered as an educational tool, is in no clear way superior to traditional forms of learning. Lecture,reading ,discussion, and yes ,even a blackboard from time to time have proven their general efficacy over several generations. Any form or species of serious learning based upon social networks at the current time is born out of undisciplined enthusiasm and faddish intoxication. Seriously ,do you really think children can meaningfully form cohesive and enduring ideas about a critical field of learning, such as science, by prattling back and forth over Twitter gushing about the latest Justin Bieber photo.
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          Feb 27 2011: Well... that is one way you could use social media, but it is much more than that.
          One good example of how social media could improve education would be having a wiki all the students could edit on a particular topic. Then, say I found the second paragraph particularly useful in my study for my exam, I could "like" that paragraph. Then, my classmate sees that I liked that paragraph, he will notice my "like", and concentrate on studying the topics of that particular paragraph.
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    Feb 23 2011: Like anything in life, all participants in the process need to change and go with the flow, so to speak. Educators need to be open minded regarding new methods, willing to impliment new ideas in the classroom, and they need to be excited about learning in new and different ways.

    An example I am still sad about after 40 years, is my son's experience with school. He was reading from the time he was 3, and going into the 1st grade, was reading Hardy Boy books. His teacher punished him for reading those books because he was supposed to read "See Dick Run" books. This was only one example of what he experienced in school for 4 years! At that time, "gifted children" were starting to be recognized and his 4th grade teacher took classes and explored the idea of teaching "gifted children". Finally, he was tested, and found capable of doing college level work. I think every child is gifted in some way, and educators need to be open to various processes with the idea of discovering each and every child's gifts. I believe if this could happen more, we would have less behavior problems in the classroom, and fewer children would be put on drugs to alter their behaviors. Learning can be fun! That's what my son believed before he went to school, and he re-discovered the fun of learning with his 4th grade teacher, who was willing to adjust her previous beliefs while still working in the same educational system.

    I agree with you Cloe in that our educational system needs to adapt and evolve, and that takes the effort of every single educator, student and parent. It doesn't necessarily have to be a big change in the system. It needs to be people willing to open their hearts and minds to new ideas.