Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kid Internet Safety - Is Social Media A Safe Place to Educate Our Kids?

Many teachers have started to embrace social media instead of banning them. Government education bodies across the USA, Canada, the EU & other countries have published "Internet Usage Guidelines For Schools", which include components on how to use social media and share information between teacher, parent, and kid & keep the kids safe.Even though many have started to embrace this movement, there are many teachers that are still cautious of social network usage amongst kids, especially at school. I strongly feel that their uneasiness of the social media usage is based on negative media publicity and/or the pure ignorance of the technology itself. With this being said, there are many arguments that the educational benefits of social media outweigh the risk, and the teachers in support of the social media in classrooms worry that the schools are missing out on an opportunity to incorporate tools that many students already know how to use.It doesn't mean parents and teachers put down their guards about the Internet dangers for kids, but it does mean get involved & get up to speed to help & work with your kid on the Internet.In a pilot project, which started as a Facebook-like forum, a seventh grade teacher showed with her social media program 20% of students (school wide) were completing extra assignments for no credit, grades increased more than 50%, and absenteeism was reduced by more than a third.Here are 5 reason why I feel that school should embrace social media just like the seventh grade teacher that I mentioned above.1. Social Media is Not Going Away
Contextually, things have not really changed. In the early 1990s the debate was similar as it today. School administrators were adamantly against allowing access to the Internet - the big fear being pornography and predators. If you fast forward, it seems as though we're confronted with similar issues today. Can you imagine a school not being connected to the Internet now? Impossible!However, in pure numbers and usage there has been a big change. For example, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, almost ¾ of seventh to twelfth graders have at least one social media profile, and the survey group used social sites more than they played games or watched videos online. Also, you cannot ignore social medias like Facebook have grown to over 500 million users in 7 years, and I haven't even gone into the details of sites like Myspace, Tagged, MyYearBook, Ning, Hi 5, and LinkedIn. Social media growth is exponential.Also, here's something else that endorses social networks are here to stay. Not to long ago, some public schools in the UK had an Internet "lock down", and the students basically rebelled. Marks, absenteeism & attitudes changed during this "lock down". Unlike the teacher who had positive results with her pilot "Facebook" program, the kids who went through this "lock down" period seemed not to take responsibility for their actions.Bottom line - social networks are here to stay. Parents or teachers should get on board - learn it & teach it.2. Kids Are Better Learners When Engaged
A 3rd and 4th grade Minnesota teacher started using blogs in his classroom in 2007 as a way to motivate students to write. The results were amazing. Students loved it.In many examples, students have shown to become keenly aware that blogging is not just writing on a piece of paper that gets handed to the teacher, and gets handed back with a smiley. They know that blogging is a shared concept, and friends or other people may even stumble across their writings. There is a concept of power in that notion.Kids are enthusiastic about in-class blogging. In the pilot Facebook project previously mentioned, students got to school earlier and the overall quality of their work increased.Parents and teachers - when kids are engaged, they learn better. We need to become engaged before we help them become engaged.3. Safe Social Media Tools and They're Free
A teacher started using blogs to teach kids, and ended up developing a 'social media platform'. His platform allowed him to monitor and approve everything that the kids were posting online, and kept kids safe from inappropriate advertising. This teacher then developed a similar web-based tool, which teachers use today. The tool is called is one of the hottest Web 2.0 tools in K-8 education, which allows teachers to easily blog with their classes in a teacher-kid-friendly environment. Teachers tend to gain a sense of the interaction taking place as the students navigate their way through their class members' blogs, and teachers can also invite other classes and guests to participate in the class' discussions, thereby broadening the readership audience and increasing motivation for students. Multiple teachers can also collaborate within a Kidblog class and share moderation responsibilities.From a safety perspective, teachers have full administrative control over all comments, posts, and privacy settings. The administrator has the ability to preview and approve (or unapprove) content published by students (and other visitors, if allowed by their privacy settings). Kidblog endorses privacy & does not collect any personal information from students.Kidblog also never subjects students to advertising, so teachers can feel comfortable knowing that the publishing environment is free from distractions.Even though is extremely popular there are other equally popular tools, such as Edmodo & Edublogs.The key element - these tools are safe and 100% free.4. Schools Stealing Public Social Media Time
According to a Neilson study, between 2004-2009 the amount of time 2-11 year old kids spent online increased by 63%. One way schools have used this number to their advantage is to compete with other social media sites for part of this time.One school in the USA launched a pilot program and had their kids complete all their assignments on the school's propriety social media. As a result, the students spent about five fewer hours weekly on Facebook and Myspace so they could do their assignments.Another example, a teacher would post an extra assignment that students could complete after school every day. The posting was done on school propriety social media. One day she had students comment on one of President Obama's speeches; another day she had them make two-minute videos of something on their walk home that was a bad example of sustainability. These assignments had no credit attached to them. The only intrinsic reward was interacting with other students in the digital world.The results speak for themselves - one social media displaced by another, and has accommodated students desires to communicate with each other, and in a safe way.5. Social Media Encourages Collaboration
Social media as a teaching tool has a natural collaborative element. Students critique and comment on each other's assignments, work in teams to create content, and can easily access each other and the teacher with questions or to start a discussion.Traditional education, on the other hand, typically involves teacher-given lectures, students with their eyes on their own papers, and not talking neighbors. Then, when a student gets into the business world they are literally thrown into groups, expected to produce, but unprepared and lack the collaboration skills.Many studies show the compelling nature for kids to use social media tools in school, especially how they collaborate. It was initially thought that the shy kids would drift away from collaboration, but in fact if they had a point to make they would make it equally as well as a non-shy kid.It's easy to see that students enjoy interacting with each other, which also happens to be in a safe and secure manner.Conclusion
The negative media publicity has actually had a positive impact, and made our school administrators fully aware of the Internet dangers and thus developed programs and technology to address these concerns and keep our kids safe at schools. As a by- product of these tools, there is a reduction in absenteeism, and our kids are being properly prepared for the collaborative world.I believe we are on the right track to educating our kids correctly and keeping our kids safe on the Internet while at school.

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