Social Media in the Classroom

Rebecca Coleman, Canadian arts marketing expert and blogger, is asking a very interesting question at her blog today: “Social media: a distraction or an enhancement in the classroom?”  She describes such phenomena as participating in two classes at once by attending one and following the Twitter stream of another, and sharing what she learns at a conference with her Twitter followers in real time.

My hackles go up at the thought of students following and participating in another class while being in my classroom.  My instinct and the research I’ve heard suggest that what we call “multi-tasking” is really just “doing a half-assed job at more than one thing at the same time.”  But I’m not an expert in these matters and I’d love to hear what you all think.

I long ago gave up battling with my students about putting their phones away.  I let them use laptops and don’t hassle them about texting, but I’ve always been convinced (and told them) that the students who learn best are those who put away their toys, or at least use them strictly for notetaking or looking up pertinent material.  Am I wrong?

Note that the question of whether a tool like Twitter can be used directly as a learning tool is a slightly different, albeit interesting, one.  My question, and Rebecca’s if I understand it, is more about whether the benefits of using such a tool to share info or participate in outside activities might balance out its detriments as a distraction.

Go read the post!  And comment here or comment there, but let me know what you think.

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4 responses

  1. It can be effective if the goals and objectives are structured. The classroom setting has to adhere to certain policies. I am processing “hackles go up at the thought” and “long ago gave up battling”. I’ve worked in numerous academic settings. So much is possiblle under the right circumstances.

  2. Although I’m sure there is some possible, beneficial role for any social media to play, the idea of students diverting their attention from a lecture or discussion to follow something not directly related strikes me as very counterproductive.

    It seems to fly in the face of the scheduled class activities, which are presumably there because they are valuable experiences.

  3. each year the kids become smarter.what we would call ‘a half-assed job’ could to them be, two jobs done well. for years we have been listening to music/commentary of games/the stories the children tell us……..and yet concentrating on the job at hand. so why cant students do the same?their levels of concentration may be higher than us, and maybe they are more evolved than us.so maybe its not a sign of disrespect, or not paying enough attention to what we are saying. it could just be that they actually are good at multitasking!!!

  4. If the class is about social media, then sure. If the class is about current events, maybe part of the time. If the class is about calculus? Please.

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