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Teenagers, Aunts, and Facebook Groups
posted by: Jill | October 12, 2011, 08:23 PM   

Today there is a very happy 14 year-old in school. Last night, she created her own Facebook profile after months (years) of pleading to parents. Her "technology is power" aunt may have had something to do with it. And her Facebook-savvy cousin was more than happy to assist in the birth of an online profile.

But this story is more than just a teenager tale of triumph. Recently, Edweek reported an AP story titled Teachers Use Social Media to Enhance Instruction. It's the story of Iowa school districts thoughtfully delving into the digital realm so that they improve their instruction and connect with students creating a more student-centric environment. To put it in layman's terms, they wanted to meet students where they are, so they went to Facebook and Twitter.

Some might be reading this and might be worried about teachers and students connecting through social networking. Let me get a little more detailed than I have in the past. It needs to be clear that a teacher does not need to be friends with her students in order to utilize Facebook for classroom purposes. Teachers can create a Facebook Group which omits the "friend" option; students request to join the group. "It works great" says Agriculture teacher, Brad Taylor, who has created a page for Future Farmers of America. "It offers a good chance to help kids understand that these social media sites can be tools, not toys." Taylor goes so far as to say that students who miss out on using tools, such as Facebook, actually end up falling behind."

Nate Green, a 9th and 10th grade teacher at a school in Connecticut relates in his article "The Advantage of Facebook Groups in Education" that he was initially uncertain and nervous to step into the social media realm. However, he has seen accomplished two major things: "one is that I engaged my students in their space (social media, Facebook) and I taught them how to use it academically (for their own personal gain) and secondly, I have allowed students to drive the content of the course through collaborating and pursuing information, all the while driving one another to learn and better articulate their opinions in open academic discussion."

So really, my excitement for a little 14 year-old niece is more about academic opportunities available to her than her first Zynga obsession. I hope that her teachers, administrators, district leaders, school board members, state officials, and parents help her to foster this online presence for academic rigor's sake instead of dismissing it as just another teen fad— one of those 800 million users (+1) kind of fads.

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