Long after we’ve gotten used to dealing with the frustrations of programs not working, Twitter crashing and Google+ not giving us invites automatically, we’ve forgotten how wonderful technology really is. In the education sphere, it can provide a feasible way to make almost-miracles happen for children through online learning. In the same way that color TV was once a magic mirror, todays’ technologies can bring things to life within the cement block structures we tell children to learn in.
Skype can make international calls. This may sound trite and obvious today, but if you consider the possibilities of what you can do with this, it makes perfect sense to integrate it with the classroom. Teachers can connect online with other teachers so students can get to meet international pen pals or simply hear the other teacher give a lesson for the day. Maybe a teacher from Mexico City can talk to a class in Idaho about the Mexican Revolution or the political climate of the country today.
Skype can also be used to have guest teachers from around the country. The more resources teachers are able to pull from, the broader the worldview children are going to grow up to have. It’s essential that we begin showing children what a global economy looks like at a young age.
Google Hangouts can be used in a similar way. Why not host a panel of five history teachers from around the nation to talk about how the Civil War began? The teacher from Atlanta may highlight a few facts the New York teacher may leave out. If we can begin globally educating our children, the victors will no longer be the only ones who get to record history.
Political science classes have a veritable goldmine on Twitter. Have students follow a Justice’s tweets for a week and write about the types of issues they’ve faced. Economics classes can follow trending topics and see if they can find any statistically significant correlation between global news and stocks. They can also pick a specific company and see how news they’ve gathered from Twitter changes the price of the stocks. The big dip in Apple’s stock prices recently, for example, could have easily been predicted by an enterprising student who read that Jobs was retiring.
Twitter is also great for budding journalism students or marketing students. Looking at what’s trending on Twitter is taking the pulse of the nation. They can see what people are interested in, which will drive their careers the rest of their lives.
Facebook is being used less in the classroom since it’s seen as more of a peer-to-peer outlet. Missouri actually made it illegal for teachers to friend students on Facebook because it’s seen as blurring the teacher/student relationship boundaries. However, just because it’s not widely used doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a purpose. Facebook is a great place to share articles that are relevant to students. In college, it’s a place for a professor to pose a question and let past and present students all endeavor to answer it.
One teacher actually used Facebook as a learning tool by having her students create profiles for characters from a novel they were reading in class. Students in Mr. Featherstone’s class completely filled out their profiles and then had their character friend their teacher’s persona. Since everything was done from dummy accounts, it’s a great way to utilize Facebook without stepping into any privacy issues.
Facebook can be used to coordinate study groups or publicize department-wide functions, since it has such an easy method of creating events. After a school play, Facebook can be used to judge student reaction and see if they got the message behind the screenplay or if they were too busy looking at the costumes. Maybe teachers could tailor their class next time to go deeper into the play since they already know where students are at with it.
The possibilities of using technology and social media in the classroom are limitless. Technology is breaking down the barriers of distance and cultural perspective and creating a world where all viewpoints are heard. That’s exactly what education is supposed to do, so it would be a gross injustice to students to not harness its power.