Learning About Social Media

Aviva Dunsiger’s latest post included a number of questions.

How do we help students safely make mistakes and learn from them? When it comes to children, should an offline social life be the way to go (at least for anything not school-related)? What have you tried and what do you suggest?

They’re in red and so those of us in education know what that means…this needs your immediate attention.  So, I responded immediately on her blog and I’d like to flesh it out a bit more here.

For me, it started with Apple’s 1984 commercial.

More recently, Microsoft has this commercial throwing a dig in Apple’s direction.

The rules of advertising seem to have changed.  There was a time when advertising was just a matter of fact discussion about how your company has a good product.  Now, in a world with everyone with a computer and media skills, the landscape is crowded. To be successful, you need to shout louder than the rest and be outrageous to catch everyone’s attention.  The mindset does trickle down to everyone who wants to have their voice heard.

Including students.

That’s where I think that Aviva asks a very important question for the classroom teacher.  In a world with this mentality, and so many tools, what’s a teacher to do?  What’s the key to success?

In my opinion, it starts with the humble blog.

There are so many options. You could create a blistering video.  You could do a dynamic podcast.  You could talk up a story 140 characters at a time.

Or, you could blog.

For the classroom, I see the blog as the perfect first steps towards addressing curriculum expectations and also dealing with the questions that Aviva poses.

  • We all know that what’s on the Internet is there forever.  However, in golfing terms, blogs do offer the chance of a gimme.  Once you send a Twitter message, it’s gone.  A blog remains in student control and can be edited at a later date.
  • A blog offers the perfect platform to support the writing process.  There’s a lot of good “Do’s” as I blogged earlier.  Blogging is generally a respectable, serious tool for social media.  There’s no excuse for the one or two letter acronyms needed at times to fit a message into 140 characters.
  • Blogging has the reach that social media promises.  You can reach into parents’ homes, get opinions from experts, work collaboratively with other editors, and comment on classmate’s works.
  • With respect, it gives the student all of the tools to completely express an opinion, offer their own insights, and stand out from the crowd.
  • Blogging does provide a platform for the discussion “What if?”.  What if you get a nasty comment?  What if someone tries to bully you?  What if you make a spelling mistake?  What if …?

I do believe that there are all kinds of advantages to making blogging your first social media platform.  It offers a great starting point.  Assembling a class collection of blogs immediately generates your own newspaper.  It is writing and can offers all kinds of opportunities to fully discuss and develop an expertise in social media.

Once students understand how to use the media responsibly, then they’ll be well equipped to master what’s next.

9 thoughts on “Learning About Social Media

  1. Nice extension of your original comment, Doug. I agree with many of your points, and particularly like the idea of how easy it would be to create your own class newspaper using students’ blogs. I find sometimes that my elementary school students aren’t terribly familiar with the blog as social media, though – it’s not something they’re consuming on their own outside of school, and I think that making that kind of connection is important. I like to start talking about blogging by sharing some of my favourites in a number of areas, and helping my students find bloggers they want to read (and that can be a minefield, as you might imagine). It’s part of the reason I’m looking into Tumblr as a beginning blogging platform – my students are already familiar with what it looks like, and are already consuming it, making it easier for them to make the jump to being creators.


  2. Nice thoughts, Lisa. I know that a lot of people use Tumblr and are very happy with it. The comments that I’ve heard is that people consider it a more modern platform. I used Tumblr once upon a time as a place to post photos and it did a nice job. It would be interesting to see what I would choose if I was starting to blog today. However, it might involve a great deal of work to move now! I think I’ll just stick to changing the theme periodically as my way of refreshing things.


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  4. Doug, thanks for continuing the conversation here! I really like the idea of using blogs with students. I think that this can be a great way to get students into using social media, but with an academic focus as well. I think that my biggest concerns come when students use websites such as Instagram and FaceBook. They’re not using these sites to share about academic learning, but about personal interactions, and sometimes it’s difficult to know what to share in this very public space. Should elementary age students be using these websites? If so, how do we support them in using them well? I find that regardless of the number of Digital Citizenship activities tried, the real world is still very different than the one we discuss in these activities. How can we change this?



  5. As always, you pose the million dollar question, Aviva. There is, obviously, a less than academic situation that can arise. I’ll answer your question with another of my own. If we’re not teaching it in schools, then students will be left to their own devices. Are we prepared to let them decide where the dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable lies?


  6. And that’s my biggest concern, Doug! I’m all for teaching the use of these tools in school, but I wonder if some of these tools should be kept for school use (or use at home with a parent) until a student is older. With age comes more maturity and more experience. Will this lead to greater success? I’m not sure. Is there a way to introduce these tools at school and provide a safe online practice ground for home use? Does this even exist? I’m not sure. This may be a topic that has more questions than answers, but maybe all of these questions will eventually lead to some good answers.

    I guess I’m a little philosophical on this Monday night … 🙂


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