Outside of school learning is less formal with the use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. My question is why can’t this be transferred to the classroom? Don’t we want classrooms to start being more like the real world? Our curriculum vision is for confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners. By using social media platforms in school for learning, along with the engagement and other benefits, we are also showing our young people how these platforms can be used for learning as well as connecting on a social level. We are showing them that learning is ubiquitous and it can take place anywhere anytime.
Having used Twitter, Edmodo, and real-time video chat platforms like Appearin.com and Google Hangouts for a number of years I have seen how the integration of these tools can bring learning to life for students in a classroom. This type of learning is constructivist rather than instructivist and gives students opportunities to develop agency in the classroom. Social media in the classroom provides opportunities to access experts, authors, and other learners on a global scale.
Through connected literacy initiatives such as #NZreadaloud and #GlobalReadAloud I have connected my learners with numerous authors as well as students in other classes across New Zealand and around the world. This sort of connected experience has brought learning to life in my classroom. Having a class Twitter account has allowed my learners to connect, share, discuss, question, reply, comment on, and learn from all sorts of people who are also connected. I have taught that using twitter is a literacy skill which requires users to crystallise their thoughts into 140 characters. This is summarising at its finest.
Along with this excitement can be the trepidation of how will learners cope with this online opportunity? Will they use it respectfully and appropriately? I say they can and they do; as long as you as a teacher have discussed and shared with them the importance of digital citizenship. Programmes like The Social Media for Kids programme in America teach how to virtually protect themselves when online, how to use the internet for good, and ways you can create a positive image for yourself. Teaching students how to “navigate the web in an effective and safe manner while ensuring their future success in a tech-savvy and highly connected world” (Social Media for Kids, 2014) is the vision and one which is highly relevant in classrooms today.
Another innovation which is explained in the Innovating Pedagogy 2016 report is that of learning for the future. The emphasis now is not just about “mastering content, but also on acquiring skills to learn, unlearn and relearn” (pg. 5 ). For example being able to change your opinion in the light of new information and understanding. This is a part of why I use social media platforms such as Twitter and Edmodo in my classroom. It exposes my learners to other people’s perspectives and opinions and they begin to understand the world is bigger than them. However, I don’t see these as skills just for the future; to me and my learners they are skills for now.
Innovating Pedagogy speaks about active and constructive learning as learning whereby students carry out an activity that can support learning such as commenting, critiquing, or constructing. This is the type of learning the students in my class are doing when we use social media platforms such as Twitter and Edmodo especially during #NZreadaloud and #GlobalReadAloud. Flattening the walls of the classroom, collaborating online with others and building understanding together is powerful.
Innovating Pedagogy 2016 explains how Twitter is “a learning space that has multiple entrance and exit points” (pg. 14 ). Learners can engage very briefly, they can learn by watching others, or they can engage extensively over a long period of time. I have found that some students will find it a place they don’t stay for long while others will find their voice here. For me as a learning coach I love it that “on these sites engagement is under learner’s’ control” (pg. 14) and that is what innovating pedagogy has at its core for me – changing who is in control of the learning.
Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University.