#SMCEDU Chat: Can social media change the culture of education?


Social Media Club Education Connection (aka #SMCEDU) is a national initiative whose goal is to unite educators, students, and professionals to further the development of social media curriculum in our schools, enabling a wider network of learning and workforce preparedness.

#SMCEDU is a part of Social Media Club, a nonprofit organization that is working to promote media literacy and connect people to share what they are learning about social media.

Bob Dylan, The times they are a changin'
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
-Benjamin Franklin (or Confucius, depending on who you ask)

More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given.
– Bertrand Russel

In today’s #SMCEDU chat, we explored the capability of social media to change the culture of education.

To better understand the changes I’m asking about, consider this recent article in The Washington Post about the
banning of laptops in the classroom
, and also this popular study on
why grading does more harm than good
. There are many that believe the walls of academia are sheltering, rather than preparing, students from the real world.

Consider, too, the merits of social media and technology: the ability to quickly connect to other people regardless of physical proximity; the amount of information on any topic and the ease with which it’s contributed to and accessed; the feedback that stimulates conversation.

It’s true that each of these merits also has drawbacks, such as the amount of false information that exists on the Web, and the negative, unconstructive criticism that everyone who has visted Web pages has encountered.

When these views are combined, however, the picture of the Internet as both a powerful and essential educational implement and an instrument that requires experience and knowledge to use becomes evident.

The combination of these contemplations leads me to wonder…can the use of social media change the culture in our schools?

Highlights from today’s chat

A principal’s reflections on the effects of the real-time Web on education

This was shared by Eric Sheninger (@nmhs_principal), principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey. Principal Sheninger spoke on a panel at the recent 140 Conference in New York, and his thoughts on the subject are a refreshing reminder that change IS happening, albeit at a slower pace than many would like.

I also like this reassuring piece of evidence that not all schools are moving backward: Dr. Raul Pacheco of the University of British Columbia was able to bring social media to the classroom in a welcoming environment, and his students seem to be thriving.

The definition of culture

Jeff Nugent (@jeffnugent) of Virginia Commonwealth University brought up this point, which shows the reach and influence of higher education. He also brought up the connection between culture and values. It’s an interesting question: what are the values of social media? Ideas like these shed light on why incorporating social media into class curriculum is challenging (and worth it).

Dr. John A. McArthur (@jamcarthur) of Queens University of Charlotte shared this definition of culture. If you remember this excellent slideshare from this year’s SXSW conference on universities in the 21st century, slide 16 will show you just what we’re up against when trying to change tradition.

And maybe it isn’t the culture of education that we should be focusing on, but what education actually means to most people. This seems like an easy question to answer, but leave your ideas in the comments…let’s compare notes.

What we do now

This tweet from Lauren Vargas (@vargasl) summed it up for me. As Dr. Pacheco noted, it doesn’t take a new roster of educators to enable change.

It will require the support of educational leaders, and for current teachers to continue fostering the best learning environments they can.

The good news? Help is out there. We’re working on several projects this summer that will train educators directly, and create content that will help both educators and students online in the coming semester. We’re doing what we can to keep change moving in the right direction.

Can social media change the culture of education? It already is, beginning with conversations like this one. How long it takes is another question.