This week I read an article entitled Why Twitter and Facebook Are Not Good Instructional Tools by an English and digital media teacher named Paul Barnwell.  In his article, Barnwell discusses how students do not use certain social networking sites, such as Twitter, to their full potential but, rather, they use them as a distraction from their school-work.  Barnwell also argues that certain web services, like Poll Everywhere and Prezi, do not offer any educational value because they allow students to use gimmicks, such as colourful graphics and fragmented text, to convey their ideas, and their novelty only lasts for a short amount of time. 
This week I read an article entitled Why Twitter and Facebook Are Not Good Instructional Tools by an English and digital media teacher named Paul Barnwell.  In his article, Barnwell discusses how students do not use certain social networking sites, such as Twitter, to their full potential but, rather, they use them as a distraction from their school-work.  Barnwell also argues that certain web services, like Poll Everywhere and Prezi, do not offer any educational value because they allow students to use gimmicks, such as colourful graphics and fragmented text, to convey their ideas, and their novelty only lasts for a short amount of time.  Barnwell references the study noted in this article to suggest that only tools like blogs and wikis promote "academic rigor." Several people, who commented on this article, contend that it is a teacher's job to be familiar with both the limitations and advantages different tools in order to implement them successfully into their classroom, which implies that Barnwell did not investigate all of the applications of the tools he mentions.  MelindaB, the head of marketing for Poll Everywhere, actually corrected Barnwell about two things he says in his article about Poll Everywhere.  Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion but, as many of the people who commented on this article have said, people should choose their words wisely and they should be able to back up their opinion(s) with some kind of reasoning, especially if they criticize popular tools and services.  

Many people who commented on this article were quick to state that they do not believe that it is a student's fault for not knowing how to use social networking sites for educational purposes but, rather, it's because he/she has not been shown how to use them for education and research, so he/she continues to be what Teachcmb56 calls a "digital tourist," in that he/she only understand bits and pieces of certain tools.  Coach G says that "schools need to cultivate... resourcefulness" and he gives the link to a blog post of his in which he discusses how teaching kids about social media now, will help them continue to use these tools throughout their life for things like research and collaboration.  Another commenter, whose screenname is DrSpector, has an opposing view to Coach G's ideas; he says it is not his/her job as a teacher to teach social media to students because he/she has too much on his/her plate, as it is, with all of the mandated curriculum content he/she has to cover.  DrSpector argues that if school administrators feel it's necessary to teach such social media skills, that they should offer a (separate) technology-specific class, which suggests that DrSpector's school division may not be providing their staff with enough support and/or professional development opportunities. DrSpector also writes that he/she has no desire to learn how to teach with technology, and his/her additional posts get increasingly angry-sounding, which caused other people to question him/her on whether or not the purpose of teaching is to also learn, yourself.  DrSpector replied by saying that teachers possess the necessary information and skills to teach, which they've learned through their training but, yet, he/she admits that he/she is not willing to learn how to adapt to today's learners. 

Another issue that is supported and refuted in the comments surrounding Barnwell's article is whether or not social networking and other web tools can help improve student engagement and learning.  @cerniglia writes that he/she attended a conference called Learning and the Brain and that Dr. Rey Junco presented research that states that when Twitter is used properly in classrooms it can foster motivation.  @cerniglia does not provide any links to this conference or to Dr. Junco's research, however, which makes me wonder how valid @cerniglia's information is.  DrSpector contests against the idea that technology can improve student motivation by saying that students in elementary and middle years levels are not developmentally ready to use it.  But, as many other people point out, young people are surrounded by computers and technology in other aspects of their lives (i.e. at home, at work.)  And, in the Saskatchewan Curriculum, one of the major English Language Arts outcomes for all grades, as far as I can tell, is for students to be able to comprehend and respond to a variety of texts, including multimedia texts.

Many of the people who commented on Barnwell's article also have issues with the article's title. One person, who uses the screenname, isalaur, commented that Barnwell's argument is not very strong because Barnwell does not offer any concrete examples of how he tried to use Facebook or Twitter in his classroom.  Barnwell actually only mentions Facebook once during the whole article (and it's in a list), and he calls Twitter a source of "mindless banter."  As an experiment, I used my own Twitter account to search for ways in which Twitter can be used in a classroom, other than as a site to post blurbs to. I found this article under the hashtag #elemchat that gives specific examples of how to use Twitter with elementary grades, including rules of (Twitter) conduct, as well as this video:
So, in summary (and in my opinion), if technology is kept separate from everyday classroom activities, then students and teachers will continue to be technology tourists.  Another example of this type of segregation that has occurred, and is still occurring, in schools, which will hopefully clarify my last statement, is with First Nations content, in that it is excluded from many core curricula.  Many First Nations students do not receive culturally-relevant education so they experience a disconnect from their schooling, as this First Nations Education Report indicates.  The same kind of disconnect is occurring with students and technology and teachers and technology; we use technology and social networking outside of school but if we don't have opportunities to use these tools inside a classroom, we might not realize that they are valuable learning resources.  As some of the comments from Barnwell's article suggest, there is a need for professional development regarding technology in classrooms.  Teachers need to be willing to learn and to try new instructional approaches and administration needs to support them in their efforts.  Teachers also need to examine their own practices before discounting the quality of the tool(s) they've selected to use in their classroom(s).  For instance, instead of just using Poll Everywhere to have students answer a few questions after a lesson, teachers could use it for school elections, school fundraisers, to communicate with a student privately, and even for flipped classroom assignments.  And, as I've learned through my ECMP 355 class, social media can be used in conjunction with other, more academically supported, forms of technology like blogs and wikis (according to Barnwell), through elements like widgets, badges, and links. So, after reading this article and its comments, I say, "Yes, social networking does belong in classrooms."
6/19/2012 12:12:54

Thanks for sharing what this article is about. I chose the other article for my tech task. I never read the article but from what you said I disagree that Twitter and Facebook, etc are not good instructional tools for the classroom. I do believe that they are a big distraction to students, however if we teach students to use them properly and engage them in our classes then I believe they wont be as inclined to use it during our instructions. As I learned from this class Twitter can be used to connect with others across the world and offers great resources and ideas to learn from. It is not different then out students and what they could experience if they were taught about how to use social media tools.

Reply



Leave a Reply.