One of the many definitions available on wikipedia includes, "any form of online publication or presence that allows end users to engage in multi-directional conversations in or around the content on the website."  In other words, if you put something out there and there's a possibility that someone can have dialogue with you through the media, you are engaged in social media. 

Have you thought about expanding your definition of social media? Immediately our minds jump to sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Yes, these are social networks (in the truest sense), but there are a variety of platforms available.  Blogging, Skype, and YouTube are just a few.  Even sites like Poll Everywhere can engage our students in ways they haven't considered.

Are you currently engaged in the use of social media to develop professionally?  Sites like Facebook and Twitter have a negative connotation associated with them. Most of us use them purely for socializing.  I put off for years getting on Facebook and it was just a year ago that I was asking, "What the heck is Twitter?"  But ... I have discovered in this year, that while there is a social component involved (talking to other people), it's all in how I use it.  Did you know that there are hundreds of educators on Twitter engaging in thoughtful conversations daily, helping each other grow as professionals?  Did you know that organizations like the ASCD (and their sub departments), edchat, and more are on Facebook?  Engaging in social media professionally helps us see the potential for our classrooms. 

Have you considered that you are replacing, not adding on?  When integrating social media into your curriculum, you are actually replacing some other form of communication.  You are not adding on.  I teach my students how to craft a quality comment anyways.  Does it make a difference whether they are creating it in a Pod Cast, blog comment, or twitter post?   I have actually found that I save time because of incorporating social media into my classroom!

Have you considered that you are already teaching those skills?  The social aspect of using social media in the classroom is embedded.  I know many despise that word embedded, but it's true.  Very much like we teach our students how to work in a partnership or small group, we teach them how to do that online..  Because that's what they are doing.  Talking to a partner and/or small group in another classroom/town/state. 

Why not meet them where they are?  I read a book once by Steven Levy and he commented on how he likes to make school unlike his students' lives so that there is novelty to it.  Doesn't this same concept apply to social media?  Sure.  Our students use Facebook and YouTube.  But do they really understand the global potential for these sites?  Do they truly get that they can be talking to someone outside of their small circle?  Not unless we show them those opportunities and teach them the novelty of these sites and how they are actually empowering instead of enslaving.  Let's turn their use of social networks on its head and help them see the empowering potential.

Have we witnessed the success?  One of the things I try to do every year is visit a school.  I have visited public, private, charter, and magnet schools.  Ranging from grades PreK - 12.  Each valuable experiences.  I highly recommend that every professional do this for themselves.  Go and visit a classroom, school, or district that is incorporating social media.  See for yourself what their students are doing.  And ask those tough questions about how engaged students are in school and what their personal use of social media has become.


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