When I was a child, communication was so much different compared to communication opportunities young people have access to today. I remember a dial-type stationary phone at home. I used it to call my friend and invite her to go outside to play. It was a success if I could find her at home at that moment… Another available communication tool was mail. I had some penpals living in other towns and every month I used to send them mails to tell how I am doing and exchange stamps with them in order to fill each others’ collections. All of the other forms of communication were face to face.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Now students are using online chats, video calls, and sometimes emails. Emails aren’t that popular in our school in youth circles. Social media came to my life only when I was 16 and it didn’t really seem to me that I could learn something useful using it. Years have passed and my opinion of the ways in which we can use social media has drastically changed. Few years ago I discovered Twitter to be a great tool for gathering and sharing information with other educators all over the world. The entire world of educational contacts, as well as resources, has opened up to me. This twitter experience made me seek for more and find new educational resources shared by groups of educators via Facebook: EdTechTeam Global Community, Seesaw Tech Integrationists, Seesaw Ambassadors, Teachers Using Google Suite For Education, Technology Teacher Talk With Brittany Washburn, Facebook Group Teach With Tech. Now I am successfully using these and many other resources found on social media for my professional development.

New trends in education are approaching us online every day. As I’ve already mentioned in my other COETAIL blog post, # is a really helpful character in this process. It allows me to search for appropriate content sorted out by specific keywords. For example #earthday or #coetail, etc. allows me to find all topic related posts shared by other people on social media. It is a real treasure for an educator if you know how to use it 🙂

Before the beginning of my COETAIL journey, my opinion about social media was completely different. My students are up to 10 years old and I can’t really use social media tools with my students – they are too young for it. However, I realized that there are ways to utilize special/closed social media platforms or communities created for specific purposes, such as Seesaw, Google Classroom, Padlet, Flipgrid, Google Sites, Blogger, etc. Such online tools might work as an affinity space for small groups of students where students can share their learning experience, help classmates to learn, and even come up with new solutions and trends. Learning model based on communication might be an introduction to participatory culture for younger students. Students can build a basic understanding of proper communication online and see the value of sharing ideas with other people as well as working towards the same goal in groups. Unfortunately, sometimes teachers are still asking to disable chats on some learning platforms – I don’t see many reasons to do that. How will students learn proper communication online if they don’t practice it?

“…participatory cultures represent ideal learning environments. Gee (2004) calls such informal learning cultures “affinity spaces,” asking why people learn more, participate more actively, engage more deeply with popular culture than they do with the contents of their textbooks.” Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 24 percent of teenagers are online “almost constantly,” so it’s essential that they know how to handle themselves there. Rules for Social Media, Created by Kids (NYTimes)

Since many students, especially older ones, already have some social media skills and are using it quite actively, I think it can also be a great place for learning. Especially, having in mind all of those stories of success of young people building their own learning and sharing environment and, as a result, coming up with some successful business ideas.

Ashley Richardson (Jenkins, 2004b) was a middle-schooler when she ran for president of Alphaville. She wanted to control a government that had more than 100 volunteer workers and that made policies that affected thousands of people. She debated her opponent on NationalPublic Radio. She found herself in the center of a debate about the nature of citizenship, about how to ensure honest elections, and about the future of democracy in a digital age. Alphaville is the largest city in the popular multiplayer game, The Sims Online. (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)