The latest episode of “The Simpsons” (Oct 5, 2009) nicely satirizes the debate over the role of social media in the classroom. Watch this episode and you’ll see the debate framed as “Social Media as Classroom Distraction vs. Social Media Instructional Gimmick.”
Much of the debate over the role of technology in the classroom is clouded by stereotypes of Luddites vs. Techies. What’s often missed is the point that it’s not about the technology, but the level thinking that technology can support. A PowerPoint can easily dumb down information into a series of shallow bullets, while a Wordle can help us to visualize text to support revealing insights.
Schools should be thoughtfully-designed learning environments where students can investigate information and be given a chance to reflect (with their peers) on what they learned and how they see themselves progressing as learners. That can be done with a variety of technologies – even pencil and paper. A social network is already sitting in the classroom that can interact with information and each other without the need to go online. But at the same time, handheld technology can support a level of investigation and teamwork that far exceeds the traditional classroom discussion group.
I’m always looking for the cheapest, most dependable, and accessible instructional tool to get the job done – depending on the situation – chalk or Twitter may fill the bill.