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The many creative uses of social media in learning


Gone are the days when teachers and students cannot be “on the same page.” Today, they are most likely to be on the same Facebook page.

Maricar Francia, a  teacher at Los Baños National High School, found herself playing Facebook and online games to get her students’ attention.

“I was curious. I wanted to know why students were so fond of these things. Instead of doing their homework, they would go online,” said Francia, one of around 250 teachers who attended the recent digital education conference at PNU.

Instead of scolding her students, she sought a way to bring social media into the classroom.

“A teacher has to be innovative and creative to counter these distractions,” she said, adding she was surprised to learn that even cash-strapped students sometimes spent hours on Facebook at Internet shops.

“I created a page for my students and, since Filipino has always been boring for them, I made the class more interactive online,” she said.

Digital icebreakers

For three years now Francia has been posting announcements and reminders on the page, demonstrating concepts through information from her news feed and using trending topics as icebreakers or introduction to the day’s lesson.

“Every day, before the class starts, I ask them to share what they have read from the page,” she said.

Teachers should accept change, she said, to meet the youth halfway and make the learning process a lot easier. Her advice to fellow teachers: “Huwag ninyo silang ikahon sa kahon na pinanggalingan ninyo (Don’t box them up in the same box you came in).”

Rochelle Miguel, who teaches at De La Salle Santiago Zobel (DLSZ), said social media provided students an avenue where they could publish their work, share them with teachers and classmates and get instant feedback and comments.

Changing experience

Meaningful collaboration happened through Facebook and Twitter, and changed the classroom experience at DLSZ after the Pearl mobile-learning program was implemented recently, she said.

Using iPads, DLSZ students discussing a group project tended to instant-message information to each other, instead of talking face to face, she said.

“They even have review sessions on Twitter,” Miguel added.

Teachers could be more creative in using social media to attain certain goals, she said.

Miguel cited social studies as one subject that could be made more interesting through, say, a Facebook timeline of historical events, or a character page where students could guess what Crisostomo Ibarra, a lead character in Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere,” would have to say about current issues.

Teachers could stream YouTube videos to break the ice in class or jazz up a lecture, Miguel said. Educational YouTube videos could supplement discussions, she added.

K to 12 goals

Social media, Miguel said, could help achieve the goals of K to 12, which is supposed to be production-centered and  project-based.

“Instead of just giving information to students, we are asking them … to create something, to collaborate on stuff,” Miguel said.

The Wiki, a website that allowed everyone to produce, edit or delete information, has a great potential for collaboration. But, while the Wiki is popular, it seems too public for classroom use.

Miguel suggested instead that teachers have students sign up on Wikispaces, a Wiki that could be exclusive to a class. Teachers could post lessons for the class to read, edit and comment on, Miguel said.

Good workspace

It is also a good workspace for student group-writing projects. Aside from allowing different users to modify content, it also allows teachers to monitor changes and students’ contributions in real time.

Class papers could be uploaded on blogs for peer critiquing through the section for feedback, Miguel added.

But access to social networks can be a major distraction for students.  Facebook offers various games and activities while Twitter is a source of celebrity gossip. Because of such, some schools ban access to social networks during class hours.

Miguel recommended the use of Edmodo, a free sign-up site that is like Facebook but can be purely academic.

In Edmodo, a teacher moderates the page and monitors posts. He/she can also upload documents like lectures, post homework and set deadlines. Edmodo notifies teachers when a student submits an assignment. Teachers can schedule examinations and other reminders using the calendar feature.

Miguel added that parents could join their children’s Edmodo accounts, too.

Another concern at the conference was: Could an educational system perennially bugged by shortages make the shift to high-technology instruction?

Cherrylou de Mesa, Department of Education (DepEd) regional education program supervisor, admitted that, with as many as 80 students in a class, it would be hard for teachers to bring their learners into social media. Also, not all schools have computers.

But De Mesa said the goal of innovating the learning system should not be given up. “Teachers have to look beyond the limited resources.”

She cited a public school in Antipolo City that used to have just one computer: “Students started learning about computers by using keyboards drawn on illustration boards.”

Rosario Ayuson, a teacher at San Jose National High School in Rodriguez, Rizal, said that although her students did not have their own computers, they were able to use social media in discussions through one laptop and a projector.

De Mesa advised teachers to think of ways to incorporate new technology in teaching and worry about resources later.

Salvacion de la Cruz, a 66-year-old elementary school teacher, admitted she was still learning the nuts and bolts of the Internet but, with the help of younger coteachers, she could now send e-mail, use Google and maintain a Facebook account.

Right values

Francia cautioned that social media were not all fun and games. Going over her students’ posts, she noted their language and behavior in the digital world.

She realized she had to instill the right values in her students and help them become responsible netizens.

She would check for bashing, harsh comments or unsavory word wars in her students’ posts and discuss them with the persons responsible, although it was not easy because of her large class and the fact that students could hide their identities.

De Mesa said students had to be taught discernment especially with the rising number of child abduction linked to irresponsible use of social networks. DepEd was also swamped with complaints of cyberbullying and stalking, she added.

While advising vigilance, De Mesa said “social media land mines” were no reason to reject new technology.

The bottomline is: Teach the young to be decent and smart users of all kinds of media.

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Tags: Facebook , Internet , Learning , Social Media

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