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Milestone 6 Reflections - A discussion on the challenges of social media in and out of the classroom: Revision

Milestone 6 Reflections – A discussion on the challenges of social media in and out of the classroom.

Cluster Goal 4

The Board of Trustees, Senior Management and ICT Leadership team will regularly inform the school communities about e-learning and its impact on school wide practices and student achievement.

Cluster Goal 5

Create, contribute to, reflect and refine e-learning communities for students, teachers and the school community, within and between curriculum areas, collaboratively across the schools in the cluster and to the wider educational community through online forums such as the VLN

Context

This reflection will build on our experimentation of the use of social media in building learning communities, what our findings have been and our next steps to continue developing on-line learning communities that are positive, engaging and supportive of the students. As well as this we will look at how we are using social media to engage with the wider community and keep them informed of events at the school.

The use of social media sites (like Facebook) as effective learning communities in the classroom

Facebook has proven to be a useful tool for communicating with the students, particularly outside of the classroom and after school. However, after experimenting with Facebook groups for sharing resources, ideas, and links within the classroom setting, we felt that the negatives far outweighed the positives. The main negatives were:

  • That it distracted the students as they would often use the excuse of using the classroom group to check their own profiles
  • It made behaviour management more difficult as it blurred the lines in the classroom between acceptable use and off-task behaviour.
  • It disempowered other teachers in other subjects (as well as relief teachers) as the students felt it was their ‘right’ to use it.

Trials in the classroom on accepted usage met with mixed success. To this extent that two of the three schools in the cluster have blocked access to the website during school hours.

However the ability to share resources, as well as examples of student work with fellow students, staff and the wider community is recognized as an important strategy in improving student achievement. To this end, Otago Girls’ High School is in the process of implementing Ultranet, a LMS that provides social networking functionality like Facebook amongst other things, but designed for an educational environment. It provides a personalized space for students to be able to upload their work, share it with selected buddies as well as their teachers, parents or caregivers. They in turn can give them feedback and encouragement. It provides areas for classroom learning, the ability to share resources as well as facilities to manage their time. All of the skills identified in the NZ Curriculum. The important thing is that it is not Facebook – It is an educational site that does not blur the lines between the personal life and their education. Being able to create their own e-portfolio of work and share it with their friends and family, gain positive feedback and suggestions of improvements is a powerful driver.

The use of Social Media to Build Community

What goes on inside the classroom is only part of the equation of a successful school. Keeping their community informed about what is happening in the school, examples of student successes, upcoming events etc all help to develop an inclusive, positive learning environment. Social Media sites are ideal for this. Otago Girls’ use both Facebook and Twitter to keep their school community informed on the success of its students, events and activities that are taking place or that have occurred as well as general developments.

Here are some examples of our Facebook and Twitter feeds in action

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The use of Social Media to Build professional learning communities