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Last fall, a neighbor complained to me, after attending his five-year old daughter’s Meet the Teacher Night. He said he felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she exclaimed to Toto: “… we’re not in Kansas anymore!”
This young father was actually correct. Why? Because, in the 21st century, our children live in a world with social media. This new technology is transforming how people communicate, how business functions, and even the nature of capitalism! Children are no longer in the schools we attended – the new curriculum, teaching approaches, and learning tools are very different.
But, before we consider some of these changes, we need to fully grasp the impact of social media.
Amazon describes Charlene Li’s and Josh Bernoff’s award-winning book, Groundswell:
“Corporate executives are struggling with a new trend: people using online social technologies (blogs, social networking sites, YouTube, podcasts) to discuss products and companies, write their own news, and find their own deals. This groundswell is global, it’s unstoppable, it affects every industry and it is utterly foreign to the powerful companies running things now.”
Young people use these social media to communicate and even take it with them everywhere thanks to mobile technology. Why use a computer when you can more easily carry your tablet? Even better, your smart phone can do many functions!
Social media not only enabled the Arab Spring but also is creating new life patterns. Consumers disregard advertising and turn to social media sites for reviews, recommendations, and advice on purchases. This is a radical, amazing change in how we conduct business and it is not only in America. It is international! Business ignores this phenomenon at its own risk.
So how does this revolution impact education, schools, classrooms, and students?
Parents introduce children as young as two or three to computers and tablets. Of course, toddlers merely play with colors, patterns, and objects. By the age of four or five, however, they are familiar with such technology and begin to learn counting skills and to recognize letters. By the time they enter kindergarten, mere PC’s are not the most interesting tools to which they have access at home.
Teachers can no longer stand in front of a classroom and lecture. Nor can they use chalkboards or marker boards. They need “smart” boards – huge touch screens. Kindergarten students use this tool to drag and drop letters into word formations and to drag and drop objects to represent numbers. Learning is interactive!
The point here is that the students learn by doing, not by sitting still and listening to a delivery of content. They need to apply skills, interfacing with multiple systems.
Today, we challenge children beyond the “3 R’s” of the twentieth century. We now require students to:
- think on higher levels.
Technology is infused throughout the day to teach reading, writing, social studies, mathematics, science, foreign languages, music, art, physical and health education.
Students design, create and present multi-media projects. They often collaborate by using social media and tools such as:
- word processing
- data bases
- web searches
And teachers? They increasingly collaborate the same way! Surprisingly, they may ask students to take out their smart phones encouraging them to work together on projects and, in that context, will even welcome the use of social media.
Educators are life-long learners who update their skills at workshops and webinars. They recognize the changes foisted upon all of us by social media. Those who resist, similar to their business counterparts, will lose their “customers.”
Rather than fear this tidal way of change. Both business people and educators are well advised to adapt and find the benefits of social media. There are many and they offer opportunities for continued success with a new vision of the “customer”.
In their timely book, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff provide ways to “tap” the groundswell. Key to such responsiveness is listening to what your “customers” are saying. What are their gripes? Their criticisms? Their preferences? Join them in online communities and give them content, provide options they seek, and dialogue in the tone and rhythm of social media. Be careful not to “shout” at them with hard-sell advertising.
If you want to learn more about the impact of social media on all of us, visit these sites:
My neighbor laughed and asked: “So when do schools begin these new ways of teaching and impose such standards on our kids?”
I reassured him that many of these expectations start as early as kindergarten!
I am Dr. Andy Rose – a music performance major (classical clarinet) at CUNY Queens College, a 1967 graduate. I earned an MA in Elementary Teaching at New York University and a doctorate in Educational Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University.
For 42 years, I was a public educator – the first 13 as a grade 5 teacher and Reading Specialist in New York City. In 1980, I became a principal in the Norwood Public School District, Bergen County, New Jersey. In 1984, I was promoted to the role of Chief School Administrator in which position I remained until my retirement in July 2009. In May 2009, the Bergen Executive County Superintendent of Schools awarded me the title of “Distinguished Educator”.
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