Many of my students often cite Facebook as one of the principal distractions from academic work, especially at this time of year when many of them are franticly preparing for their examinations. This is often seized upon by educators opposed to the use of social networking sites in schools, who use this apparent rejection of social networking sites by students to bolster the, in my view, erroneous notion that social networking sites are either just a fad or not worth the trouble.
However, this apparent rejection by students is not really surprising because schools and educators have, more often than not, shunned the use of social networking sites, even though they are quickly becoming the prevalent form of communication today – social networking sites are the C in ICT. If in doubt, ask any thirteen year old when was the last time they sent an email to a friend.
As we have consistently ignored the obvious educational potential of online social networking and communication, leisure has become the focal point of our students’ use of social networking sites. Using social networking sites for academic learning has simply never entered the equation.
And that’s not their fault, it’s ours. By ignoring the rise of online communities and online social interaction, we have essentially abandoned our students to teach themselves how to communicate in the 21st century, insisting instead on teaching them how to communicate and survive in a world that will not exist once they have left school.
No wonder then our students fail to see any relevance because, in this respect, we are irrelevant. If our job is to teach, then we have thus far not done a very good job of it.
If educators everywhere continue to ignore their students’ clear desire for peer interaction and communication outside the classroom, it begs the question: is this generation of teachers shortchanging the current generation of students?
What do you think?