At the recent International Society for Technology Educator’s (ISTE) Tweetup I had the opportunity to meet with the faces behind the minds I interact with throughout the year. With smiles and hugs abound, those in attendance didn’t miss a beat in picking up conversations face-to-face that had begun online.
Those that use social media for learning understand the power of connections and attachments made possible by the platform. Unfortunately many of us work in schools and districts that have administrators and policy makers ignorant about use these platforms, making rules, policies, and guidelines that keep students stuck in the past.
Their conversations are familiar...
Our kids need to learn to speak eye to eye, not thumb to thumb.
Our kids don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.
They shake their heads and nod with understanding lamenting that allowing these tools will result in the inability of today’s youth to engage appropriately in face-to-face interactions. Of course, when you scratch just below the surface the flawed logic is crystal clear. Did phone calls or letter writing weaken our ability to communicate face-to-face? No! Are folks making deeply meaningful connections using social media? Yes. Is social media necessary for success if you want to run a business, run for office, or change how things are run? Yes.
So, if adults are powerfully engaging in these worlds, but young people are banned from doing the same, whose to blame when students are not communicating at the level expected by adults?
Communication in any form enables us to grow and deepen our relationships with other. Our job as educators is to support students in moving with fluidity across multiple communication options i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangout, Skype, IM, text, etc. etc.
Tom Whitby, one of the founders of #EdChat (an ongoing synchronous & asynchronous education chat on Twitter) explained it this way. I’ve worked at schools and institutions for years with people who worked behind closed doors and barely talked to each other. Social media opens doors allowing you to connect and develop relationships with those who are enthusiastic about engaging with others to get smarter about the work we do. Online we often make deep connections with others around the world who would be happy to invite you into their home with just a phone call.
The use of social media and digital technologies, does not keep us further apart. These are the tools that can enable us to make important global connections that bring us all closer together. When we converse online from around the world, it is wonderful and powerful and when we have the chance to meet face-to-face it’s like a great party bringing together good friends.
Instead of blocking and banning our policy makers and administrators must allow us to support students in doing the same and the Tweeps I had the chance to meet up with in San Diego can tell you why we can no longer rob students of this crucial 21st century skill.
Our job as educators should be to support students in making these global connections and provide opportunities for the face-to-face to occur. Here are the faces behind the minds I love that gatherings like the ISTE Tweetup makes possible.
If you're wondering what meeting those minds looks like, check out this awesome stop motion video by Ken Shelton.