I recently heard a news story about a teacher using Twitter in her 8th grade classroom. She teaches and the kids tweet questions, answers, thoughts, and general feedback.
Apparently, the teacher finds that students are more willing to respond (even the shy ones), and they respond more quickly.
The response to this idea has been typically knee-jerk.
Some people are worried that this method will exacerbate the already huge problem of people losing face-to-face contact skills. Kids are all stuck in their mobile phones, rather than talking in person to each other.
Others feel that this is a slap in the face to those parents who don’t want their children using social media.
Both of these objections are silly.
For all I hear about the loss of social abilities, I’ve never actually seen, or read about, a single case of a true degradation of important skills.
Yes, people are more likely to listen to music or podcasts while on the bus. In the old days, they’d just sit there and ignore other people. I remember.
Also, although shy kids can now avoid talking in class (which may be a bad thing), it’s also the case that they ALWAYS avoided talking in class. Maybe the teacher would force them to answer a question once or twice a week. Using Twitter in class isn’t going to change that. They’ll still have to give presentations and such.
And yes, kids can now communicate with each other through texting on the phone. Does this mean that they’re less likely to meet in person? I’ve never seen, heard, or read about any evidence of that.
In short, there IS NO LOSS of social skills. There’s a gain of new social skills, like texting, or communicating through Facebook. But no one ever says, “no, let’s not go to a movie together. Instead, you go, and text me what’s happening on-screen.
For the parents who don’t want their children on social media, I have two things to say:
1. This is a school environment. Maybe you don’t want your kids hanging out with a bad element, but that doesn’t mean you’ll pull them from Geometry class because there’s a ruffian in the back row.
The teacher is using Twitter in a controlled way. This has nothing to do with “social media,” except that the tool happens to be Twitter. There are other methods of doing the same thing (I’m thinking of handheld devices used in corporate or training situations), but they’re expensive, whereas Twitter is free.
2. Kids don’t use Twitter. They’ll probably never use it outside of the classroom, until they’re all grown up.
In short, give me a break. Here we have a teacher trying to get kids involved and responding. Let’s see how it goes.