Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Plea for Pinterest

I really like rules.  I like structure and guidance.  I like knowing exactly what I'm supposed to do and, more importantly, what everyone is supposed to do.  It's why I get very upset when people neglect to use their blinker or fail to return their shopping cart to the appropriate location.  This quirk, if you will, made me an excellent student.  My approach to class was "tell me what to do, and I'll do it."  This also makes me a struggling teacher because I didn't know students existed who didn't follow the rules.  It was quite a shocking awakening, but that's another story for another blog entry.

When it comes to internet filters and blocked sites, I understand the rules and why students are prohibited from accessing what could inappropriate or distracting while using school technology.  We, as educators, however, are constantly encouraged to incorporate technology into the classroom in a way that makes things life-applicable and a bit more fun.  Most of the technology students use, however, are blocked by most school internet filters.  This limits the amount of information to which students have access and ultimately limits their freedom to information.  Websites like Youtube, Pinterest, and even Twitter provide valuable information and are a part of students' daily lives.  Teaching them how to use these tools to their advantage will benefit them significantly.  Yes, Youtube can be distracting, and yes, Pinterest can have nudity, and oh yes, Twitter has quite the issue with profanity, but this is up to teachers to instruct and monitor.  Again, teaching the effective way to use these resources will cut down on distractions and help students tap into what incredible resources are available to them.  Let us have the social media!  Everyone will be better for it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Snapchat in the Classroom

Prompted by a recent discussion on social media tools in the classroom, I went on a mini search to find the "new Facebook" and how to help teachers use it in the classroom.  Edmodo is spreading rapidly, and as more schools gravitate toward (or are at least extremely tempted by) flipping classrooms, online venues for education are in high demand.  As I learned from my students this past spring, "Nobody is on Facebook anymore."  My 400+ friends beg to differ, but okay.  I learned that all the youngin's these days are using Twitter for their thoughts (usually littered with monkey emojis), Instagram for their glam photos (of course, with every filter and art app in sight), and Snapchat for just fun conversation.

Here is how Snapchat defines their application:

The issue, though, is that whatever you share disappears within 10 seconds.  This allows students to feel uninhibited when they share images.  Even if they feel like they look ugly, the picture disappears very quickly, which takes a bit of the adolescent social image stigma allowing them to have more fun.  Because of this "magically disappearing picture," though, many Snapchat users have wound up in very scandalous situations due to inappropriate images.  Thankfully, I found a pretty helpful article written by a high school student who surveyed her peers for more information on how students use Snapchat.

While Facebook is the more "serious, mature" social media (*sigh* from this old fart who's checked her profile at least 12 times today), Snapchat is where students can be silly and real and "ugly" as they put it.  It lets them share fun pictures with just one person, without feeling like they'll be judged.  Of course, it still sets them up for very inappropriate yet tempting situations, but I see the allure.

Here's the big question, though:  How do we bring Snapchat into the classroom?  Though I try to be the watchdog that I am when it comes to cell phone use, my students use Snapchat while in class, sending pictures of hearts they drew on their paper or probably very embarrassing pictures of me as I ramble about Steinbeck and act out one-man scenes from Midsummer.  But how can this tool become educational?

I haven't figured that out yet.

As mentioned in the article, students want to keep Snapchat private, just for them to send silly pictures and be young.  Though the marketing for Snapchat is all of 20-somethings sharing drinks via their phones, teens use the app for silly texting and sending fun sad faces when their friend can't come over to study and watch Pitch Perfect for the 27th time.  It's like real life emojis!  And I like that much better than all the silly monkeys.