Facilitating Literacy in the 21st Century: Social Networking

 By readingintheborderlands

This is the fourth post in a series about 21st Century tools in the literacy classroom.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are hugely popular, with millions of daily users. While probably best known as a way for people to keep in superficial contact through short, often-trivial postings, social networking sites can be powerful educational tools. 

The obvious use for these sites is for the teacher to set up an account for the class. Students and parents can ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ and the teacher can use the site to announce homework, share student work, and answer quick questions. The teacher, students, and parents can also use the site to share class-related content; for example, if PBS is showing a Masterpiece Theater series that relates to work the class is doing, the announcement on the PBS Facebook page can be shared with the class Facebook page.

 How can social networking tools be used in the literacy classroom?

  • The teacher can pose thought-provoking questions about whatever the class is reading on the Facebook or Twitter page and ask for responses. 
  • When students are confused about a reading assigned as homework they can ask a question on the page for the other students or the teacher to respond to.
  • A group could develop a fictional Facebook page for a book character. Who would be the character’s friends? What would their status updates be? What photos and videos would they post? The same goes for Twitter: how could you retell a story through a Twitter account (check out this example [hotlink “this example”– http://madhattermommy.blogspot.com/2009/05/pride-and-twitterverse.html]. Preview before you show to students–there’s occasional questionable language.)

Given the age limits most sites have, the use of social networking is best kept to middle school, high school and college age students. Also, if you choose to use social networking sites  make sure you have an account specifically for educational purposes. Do not allow students on your personal account.

A related series of blog posts can be found at WOW Currents throughout the month of November.

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