Social-Networks: Grabbing The Skunk By The Tail

A few days ago my friend and fellow blogger Doug Johnson wrote a blog post about social media and feeling overwhelmed  taking aim at my recent blog post about playing with Google+.

OK, Utecht, cut it out. I know I should be playing with Google+, but give me a break. I can’t keep up with the social networks I have now.


Of course you can’t! Trying to keep up with social networks is a loosing battle. They move too quickly, change too fast, and most of the stuff shared on them isn’t worth our time….except that it is worth our time (please watch below). 

Does every teacher need to be using Google+ today? No. Does every Technology Integrator, or Technology Teacher, or Technology ???? need to be using it today? Yes

Especially if their school has gone to Google Apps for the students. Soon enough Google+ for K-12 Education will be released and when it does there will be power there to form communities, classes, groups, etc within the ecosystem that is Google Apps. 

But what I really want to talk about is Doug’s final question to me in his blog post:

Here’s my question: Is the ability to select and discriminate among social networking tools a needed, teachable skill? Or should every tool be used by every teacher?

My thought is that when any pundit recommends a new tool, they be required to suggest a tool that is no longer useful. 

So, buddy, what is getting less attention from you now that Google+ is getting more attention? I certainly hope it is not Ms Utecht or the Mariners.

Great question!

Do I think that discriminating among social networking tools is a needed teachable skill? Absolutely!

Should every tool be used by every teacher? Nope…but they should be using the ones that fit their discipline. 

Why Teaching Social Networking Tools is a Must

Let’s start with the fact that today’s students enter our classrooms with some social presence. Whether they have created a Facebook account themselves, or their proud Moms and Dads have created one for them with all the images they have shared on their own Facebook account of their children. Or let’s take the more likely account of some game they play on their iPad in which they had to create a user id and password to play with others. 

I’m not going to guess the percentage of students 3rd Grade and up that have a social networking presence…but I’m sure you can think for a minute and come up with your own number for your own school or classroom that is most likely a significant amount.

Social-Networking sites are a part of our world today and will only become increasingly so in the world of our students. Therefore, I would suggest that teaching students how to use, when to use and which social network to use to gather information, to find resources, or to catch up on current events is a must. Students may have a social network or social presence but it doesn’t mean they know how to use it properly. 

There’s no reason why teachers in Kindergarten can not be using social-networking tools with students. In fact those that are, give them opportunities not only to learn how these different social-networks operate, but also create some pretty cool projects in the process

These tools are so powerful when used correctly that it is a must to be teaching the skill of powerful social-networking in our schools and classrooms.

Not Every Tool for Every Teacher

Not every teacher needs to be using every tool. But every teacher should be exposing students to the social-networking tools of their discipline. 

For example, english teachers should be using a social networking site like Good Reads with their students. I would say this social-network could be way more powerful to an english teacher than Twitter or Facebook. At the same time the teacher should be teaching students about how to behave in social-networking sites that carry over to other social-networking sites as well. 

Not every teacher needs to be using every tool, but every teacher should be using some tool.

What Gets Your Attention

No Doug, my social-networks do not get more attention than the Mariners or my wife. But my social-networks are part of the attention I give to the Mariners and my wife.. At Mariner games I check in on Foursquare to Safeco Field and upload many of the images there. I follow the Mariners on Twitter and tweet during the games (many times getting responses back).

While I travel, my wife and I use Google Hangouts and Whatsapp on our phones to stay in contact. 

Much like the video talks about above, I think all these things, online social-networks and our offline life, are melding together to become… What we need to be teaching students is how it all fits together. Some networks are created for sharing pictures (instagram) while others are for sharing your location (foursquare) and yet others are created to share that great book you just read (Good Reads). All of these apps connect to our real world in some way and are meaningful in that time and place. 

So what gets my attention? Life.

Thanks for the push back Doug….and for being a part of my social-network for so long. 🙂