[OPINION] Best way to educate students on social media is through social media

 

Should teachers really avoid using social media as teaching tools?

Previously, teachers and schools were left on their own to judge this matter. This has changed with the recent memorandum from the Department of Education (DepEd) that affirmed the Department of Information and Communication Technology’s (DICT) appeal to prohibit schools from using social media in class projects and homework.

DepEd argues that “social media is not the proper outlet to support the need of learners” and instead recommends the use of open-source Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Edmodo, Schoology, and Google Classroom, among others, to support the e-learning requirements of schools.

Deped Memo on Social Media Use P1 by Rappler on Scribd Deped Memo on Social Media Use P2 by Rappler on Scribd

This concern came about due to DICT’s emphasis on the various cyber threats that young learners are exposed to through social media such as cyberbullying, pornography, and gambling. In a report, DICT Information Technology Officer Gen Macalinao said that parents send them complaints about teachers handing out school tasks to their students through social media. (READ: Fake accounts, manufactured reality on social media)

While this new directive will obviously be brushed off easily by many DepEd teachers who pay more attention to what can be deemed more concrete issues such as faculty rooms and salary increase, this issue has some serious implications for teachers and schools which require significant attention.  

Around the world, consensus has not yet been reached on whether social networking technologies are indeed fit to be used as instructional strategy. This is despite the great interest of many education and media scholars in studying this relatively new phenomenon.

In some schools, strict blanket policies disallow teachers from connecting with their students online, while in others, teachers are encouraged to take full advantage of social media for pedagogical purposes. Most Filipino teachers find themselves in between; social media use is neither prohibited nor promoted. Hence, many teachers use it for the sheer convenience it provides. (READ: Filipinos spend most time online, on social media worldwide - report

Should teachers and students be friends on Facebook?

For many teachers, Facebook has become an extension of the classroom. They have learned that through the platform they can easily connect with their students for any reason. This ease of access obviously brings both good and bad consequences. So, should teachers connect with their students on social media? Just like in most debated issues, the answer is both yes and no.

Teachers have varying philosophies in terms of how to manage student-teacher relationships. Some prefer to be friendly and accommodating while some would like to maintain distance. It is primarily due to this wide spectrum of teacher personalities and teaching styles—different yet effective in their own ways—that it is impossible to arrive at a single answer to the question.

Instead of enforcing whether teachers and students can or cannot connect online, the attention must be directed towards training teachers on how to manage their conversations with students on social media. To begin with, this could involve a list of best practices and a list of bad behaviors to avoid. (READ: The role of social media in women empowerment)

As teachers interact with their students online, they are also able to hone their professional identities. Some suggest creating a separate 'professional' account exclusive for school purposes while others prefer to maintain their personal accounts, thinking that the professional and the personal need not diverge.

Whether educators like it or not, when they are online they become social media role models. Because of this it is best for teachers to just adopt some guidelines for themselves and their students—on language use, contact time, and other boundaries for interaction. If these rules are enforced well, this can lead to positive digital habits for the students. When practiced repeatedly, these habits become norms that can have impact beyond the classroom context.

Should teachers assign projects that are based on social media?

Yes, of course, with the right objectives and proper metrics for evaluation. The problem is many of our teachers lack the knowledge on these two, hence all the poorly thought-out projects and homework graded through Facebook likes. On discouraging teachers from doing this, I strongly side with DepEd and DICT.

But are we supposed to ban altogether projects utilizing social media? No way! Young learners’ use of social media—from posting statuses and sharing news articles and videos, to producing their own memes, vlogs, and other media content—is a manifestation of the changing media environment and the youth’s response to it. It is plain misguided for schools to think that all that young people do on social media is beyond academic concern.  

Schools and educators are in a strategic position to promote digital media literacy by cultivating the creative practices of young people online. Through social media-based projects and homework that allow students to participate in issues relevant to them, schools can effectively bridge the classroom and the real world.

DepEd has to be at the forefront of the campaign for the effective integration of digital media literacy in the K-to-12 curriculum. But with its position on teachers’ social media use it seems that it does not fully understand the matter at hand. It went for the convenient blanket statement when there’s obviously so many nuances between the learning capacities and even media access of students in different year levels.

While cyber threats should be a major cause of concern, the way to ‘protect’ the youth is not by completely withdrawing them from the digital space (as if it is possible), but by empowering them to use digital media intelligently and responsibly. Schools and teachers cannot anymore ignore the expansion of their roles beyond the 4 corners of the classroom. Schools of the 21st century may just have to be with their students in social media. – Rappler.com

Marlon Nombrado is a teacher and a co-founder of the Out of The Box Media Literacy Initiative, a local nonprofit organization that works to mainstream media literacy practices in the Philippines through campaigns, workshops, and educational resources.