By: Mac-Z Zurawski
After 19 years of working in a glass manufacturing company, Carla lost her job during the “Great Recession” of the 2000’s. Pushing buttons and hauling parts around the warehouse was her defined work experience. She discovered almost any job paying close to her former salary required computer experience. Not just Microsoft Word but social media experience. She had figured Facebook something her teenaged kids used to hang out. She took a grant as part of her severance to return to school. She hoped education would enable her to start a new life in a new job and especially teach her the 21st Century workplace requirements. She is only 37 years old but feels frustrated and stranded.
How would a “community” teacher help Carla? Sure, State College would sign her up for biology and English 101. But what do those have to do with social media? That job now falls upon teachers. As 21st Century leaders we need to incorporate social media as part of coursework. We need to encourage and prepare our students for all the obstacles in learning and professionally manipulating the World Wide Web society. Why? We need to be as relevant as the world we live in. Effective educators encourage students to engage in social media as an educational tool, a creative resource, and to encourage professionalism.
Facebook as Homework
A syllabus should include Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn as possible research sites. We are not asking for groundbreaking research but check out the local city events, product lines and employment opportunities posted. Students can discover anything from marketing to sociology when they cruise FB. Social media websites have become the community board that enriches people’s lives with information. It is a 21st Century encyclopedia of diversity in action. The information highway is easy to access and sign up for beginner students. They can immediately become involved and informed in world discussions. Worldly is what we all need to be. Go beyond reading the news and become a commenter for a news story. Be a part of the information out there.
Example: Easy and informational Field Studies for different courses. Ask your Sociology 101 students to find a neighborhood or civic group on Face Book. Ask them to carefully monitor the discussions posted for a one week period. What type of behavior do they witness? Who, what, where, why and how do the discussions unfold? Is it more men than women? Is one ethnic community participating more than others? A simple glance into society outside of our norm will be seen and examined. Another example is having business 101 or marketing students find all the products that now have Facebook pages. Which one seems the most popular? Do they give coupons or sweepstakes for “ liking” them? You can design and structure these experiments to current coursework.
Online classes have effective communication discussion boards but what does the average classroom have? As a community classroom teacher I do not have access to Blackboard. I am in the process of creating a group on Facebook to continue our discussions. A lack of resources for non-collegiate classrooms can be Facebook or LinkedIn. A private group can be created and deleted per class. The teacher has the ability to monitor the communication and give participation points. This allows our students, collegiate or community, to learn the proper communication needed for the 21st Century.
Example: A group for a GED class could be made for composition. Ask each of your students to login to Facebook and write two paragraphs from the last student’s entry on your group. Each student has the chance to be creative and learn how each other write. They will be able to expand their vocabulary usage as well. Class unity and trust will also be created.
Resources: The above resources are a great starter for Face Book. Other sources include but are not limited to:
Social media outlets encourage proper communication and presentation styles. Our students may not have professional backgrounds or media experience. Today’s adult classroom, collegiate and community, encompasses everyone from the typical 18 year old freshman to a 37 year old unemployed manufacturing worker. They all need to delve into professionalism today. As students begin to communicate and monitor social media outlets they become more aware of professional standards in online discussions, presentations and employment requirements. They become more aware of our vast society of people and where and how they interact with each other. A group discussion on LinkedIn on urban strife may have postings from American professors and community workers to a doctor in the slums of Bangladesh. We and they are able to see the kaleidoscope that creates our world. Students will begin shifting their communication styles in these manners.
Students are able to create their own professional portfolios or profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and other sources. I did not grow up in a professional group of people. I did not understand how to communicate my experiences as a first generation professional. They can compare and contrast their work, educational and volunteer experiences to others to create professional portfolios. They can include acts of effective leadership positions in even the smallest organizations. Just because they are not working for NBC, Google or Goldman Sachs does not mean their work is not important or professional. As they search through other portfolios they gain confidence.
Professional social media outlets allow people to gain contacts and networks outside of their normal areas of communication. Our students learn about the world community and possible job offers or creative endeavors they would like to join. Effective leadership is a requirement as a teacher; we enhance this when we share professionalism.
Resources: http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/creating-professional-portfolio-site/, http://home.earthlink.net/~workquest/articles/ottPortfolioTips.pdf, http://www.techzone360.com/topics/techzone/articles/2012/06/08/293935-5-ways-recent-grads-utilize-twitter-as-their.htm and LinkedIn and Facebook have easy instructional guides.
Social Media Expands Our Students Horizons
Our friend Carla from the beginning of the story can change her life using social media outlets. It happens on a daily basis for anyone looking to improve their educational and work experiences. It has happened for us as bloggers and educators. We are always delving into new horizons. As we “bridge the gap between dreams and reality” for our students we change the world. Be an effective leader and incorporate social media leadership into your class and syllabus. We lead with more than books.
Please forward any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns.