This year is my year to join the online world. Until 2015, I had steadfastly refused to Tweet, Link in, or otherwise have an online presence. I’m not really sure why I decided to dive in now, but I’m so glad I did. As a teacher, I have always embraced technology in my classroom in one form or another. I loved my whiteboard; I communicated with students and parents via online messaging and a text service; I administered tests via an online service.
I wasn’t really tapping into how technology could reach my students because I was thinking only as a teacher. I was not thinking about how my students use technology. As soon as I did, I was forced to acknowledge that the social side of the Internet was missing from my use of technology if I wanted to appeal to my students. Teenagers love to Tweet. They love Facebook. They love online communities. Omitting this aspect from my instruction was preventing me from communicating as effectively as possible with my students. One aspect of communication that I teach is tailoring a message to the audience, and I realized that I was guilty of not targeting my own audience. Once again, I needed to practice what I preach!
Let’s Get Social!
Toward that end, I have launched a class website Logophiles Unleashed with information about what we do in class and downloadable resources. I think it will take some of the students a while to get used to using the Internet as an educational tool, but as educators, I believe we are doing students a disservice if we are not helping them to see how to utilize this amazing resource to their advantage. Today, one student remarked, “You mean these are good for more than just watching porn?” Now, I hope my student was making a joke, but it certainly makes a point: This generation by and large see computers and the Internet as toys and not tools.
Learning Can Be Fun!
The social side of the Internet is not just for students. As I sought to prepare myself to integrate social media into my classes this year, I joined forums, explored myriad blogs, and found the best advice I’ve ever received as a teacher. One resource I discovered this way is Quizlet, which is a partly social classroom tool. There, students can review material for quizzes and tests and compete against each other for the best scores and times, and I get to make the review sets and monitor my students’ progress. I let my students test-drive this in class to get them used to it, and they were taking the quizzes over and over to try to best each other. They even challenged each other to take quizzes on other subjects. They were learning, and they didn’t even know it because they were having fun and interacting with each other in a way that they are already comfortable with.
I would not have discovered any of this if I had not ventured into the social world of the Internet, which once upon a time, I decried as a total waste of time. Well, I can admit it: I was wrong!