Saturday, July 27, 2013

Just Say "No" to Social Networking Sites in Schools

At this point in my life, I don’t have a lot of free time, so for some of my professional learning, I rely on my google communities, Twitter, and Diigo, to keep abreast of everything that is going on in my profession. I like that because I can get my learning at my convenience. I leave Facebook and Pinterest to my wife's care, which she uses to keep family and friends up to date on some of the more ridiculous things that occasionally happen in our personal lives and to find the next best recipe.

Recently, Michael Norkun, an educator in the "Ask a Google Education Guru" google plus community asked for help and posted this in a google form survey:

"I am trying to collect some data regarding social media in schools. Would anyone be willing to complete this short survey?"

It only had two questions. Short and sweet, the perfect survey.

Answer yes or no: Do you think social networking can be integrated into schools to enhance learning opportunities?  (my answer: yes)

Which social networking site provides the greatest opportunities with education? (my answer: twitter)

Then he asks: Describe the potential benefits of using these tools in school. (my answer: something about the power of using hashtags to find specific feedback and help, for example math students in a calculus math class)

He then provided this link so viewers could see the responses as they came in.  There were a lot of "yes" responses and brief descriptions of how and why they chose their favorite "social media" site.  

As I looked over the responses, my attention was drawn to the "no" responses and the reasons given why social media should not be used in school.

"Its purpose is social, not educational. The social aspect would serve to distract students. Less technology, more hands on"

I was dumbstruck. How could another educator who was obviously a connected educator in an educational google community claim social media sites such as google plus, edmodo, twitter, pinterest (add your favorite here) not see the value of a learning community for students?

I tried to rationalize how that could be. Maybe they were a lower elementary teacher and couldn't make the leap that little ones can blog and network, too? Maybe they were an upper high school teacher and had some bad experiences? Maybe they worked in a school that controls and squashes teacher creativity?

I could presume that Jack Dorsey (twitter) and Mark Zuckerburg (facebook) probably counted on the inate "social" nature of humans interacting to make their millions (or is it billions?).   But over time, educators have bent and shaped these platforms with a social twist into learning and educational platforms with endless possibilities for students.

Or maybe it is just a matter of semantics.

For those who are of the opinion that social media has no place in school, I think they may misinterpret and perceive it as purely "socializing media."

I suggest they change their mindset from the social(izing) media vocabulary to educational & personal learning media and then go back and answer the question again.

Do you think educational and personal learning networking can be integrated into schools to enhance learning opportunities?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Toll Booth Attendants and making a difference...

Traveling on a motorcycle can be quite an adventure.

My wife and I, recently made a ten-day road trip to the Carolinas and then down into Florida. Leaving from Ohio, we were just a few miles into West Virgina on I-77 when I was reminded by the prominent green highway signs that we would soon be paying $2.00 tolls for the privilege of crossing through their scenic state. Three of them on the way down, and three of them on the return trip. Great. Twelve bucks isn't usually a big deal, but it's the principle of the thing. I don't understand the politics about how they are able to do that, considering none of the other states along the same highway system charge a toll.

Since I had forgotten about the toll booths, we did not have the bills readily available like we usually do. It's not real easy to hold up a loaded bike, wrestle for your wallet, and keep the bike from rolling away while impatient cars are waiting behind you.  With all of the recent rain we were driving in, I wasn't in a good mood when the toll booth attendant gave me "the look" for holding up his line. I profusely apologized, handed him a large bill and received my change. No "thank you", no "have a nice day", no "thanks for visiting West Virginia." Just push the button and turn the light green.

I don't know of any other racket where you can just throw up a little shack and every single person who comes by throws money at you for no apparent reason. You don't even have to thank them, call them by name, or care whether you ever seem them again. Just collect the money and push the button.

As I pulled away and remembered that there would soon be another one coming up, I began to calculate how much money they must be collecting. $2.00 per vehicle, X number of cars per hour, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a brain couldn't calculate the number so I just rounded it off to like a gazillion dollars. For that much money, they should at least pretend to like me as they take my money. Next toll, same thing. Take my money, push the green button. No words. Last toll booth, not much different although I did get a slight nod of the head as acknowledgement.

Maybe it's their job. People come, people go. No time to make a difference?

On the return trip, I decided to have a little fun with them. So, at the first one, I made it a point to take my time paying and I asked the attendant if they worked at the same booth every day? He gave me a surprised look like "Omg, this guy is actually asking me a question and I need to answer him."  I found out that toll  attendants actually rotate booths. Hmm, maybe I was onto something here.

At the second booth, I again took my time paying and joked to the attendant that the guy at the last booth said to tell him hi and that he could go home an hour early. That one got a laugh and a "have a nice day!" Okay, this was working.

Maybe they just needed to be treated like people instead of a road sign.

And then we pulled up to our final toll booth.  My wife had the exact change ready in hand, I had the timing in the correct line judged perfectly where we could have just coasted to an "almost stop", exchanged the money and not even put my feet down. If I wanted, we wouldn't even have to look at each other or say a word. The perfect toll booth system working flawlessly and efficient.

Except for one unexpected turn of events....this final toll booth attendant decided to make a difference. When my wife tried to hand him the bills, he smiled, waved her off and told us that our toll had been paid. Have a nice day, thank you, come again!

Another life lesson learned. There is always time to make a difference.