Digital Social Networking
This week AISM released its 1:1 Electronic Device Website through which parents can obtain information about the 2016 Years 6 to 8 student iPad program as well as purchasing a new device with an educational discount. As I speak to parents about the new program, I have found that one of their concerns regarding increased student access to technology is that students may spend all day on Facebook instead of focussed on their learning. However, while social media can be a distraction for some students, it can also be an effective means of communication and learning.
Recently I read an article in the Professional Educator journal (2012) that suggested that the inappropriate use of social networking can lead to distractibility, and in some cases decreased student performance. However, the author of the article, Dr Gerald White, suggested that “educators should harness social networking to improve learning” (p12). Dr White said that students can express their creativity through the customisation of their personal social networking site and can share and challenge ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. In this way all students have a forum to become a publisher of the type of material they value and that they wish to share with a selected audience.
While some parents may be concerned that allowing their teenagers to spend time on the web may result in wasted hours of social networking, a study by the Australian Communication and Media Authority found that 86% of online activity by children was education related. With over 62% of the Australian adult and adolescent population using Facebook (Socialbakers, 2012) it seems an obvious tool to facilitate improved learning for our students. Dr White suggested that virtual collaboration has the capacity for children to engage with other children in diverse locations and in different time zones and for students to interact with experts in a range of fields who provide question and answer sites on their web pages.
While the advent of digital social networking has opened up new possibilities for learning it is still clear that the single most important factor in learning is the quality of the teaching (Hattie 2009). This is why AISM provides regular opportunities for teachers to learn about ways to use new technology skills. Teachers become learners in some areas of technology and experts in other areas of technology and together the teachers become a community of learners themselves, all with the same aim of understanding how best to harness technology for improved learning outcomes for our students.
We know that students are prolific users of technology and we will continue to investigate meaningful and interesting ways to engage them through the use of their devices. To this end, as the year draws to a close, we are already planning with our curriculum and pastoral leaders for the effective and engaging use of the iPads with our Middle School students next year. There are exciting times ahead and we look forward to our students sharing their new skills with you that will have been made possible by their increased and personalised access to technology from 2016.
Hattie, J. (2009) Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, Oxford, Routledge
Socialbakers (2012) Australian Facebook figures. Retrieved January 3, 2011, from www.socialbakers.com/Facebook-statistics/Ausralia
White, G. (2012) Digital social networking: Implications for education in Professional Educator, Vol.11:6, Australian College of Educators, Victoria