Rising above the Fear: Gradually Releasing Responsibility to Social Networking in the Classroom

So I keep thinking about Twitter and Instagram use in the classroom, especially after reading this article where a second grade teacher is using both social networking sites in her classroom. Through gradual release of responsibility, she was slowly able to move the class’s Twitter and Instragram accounts into the hands of the students.

What is most notable for me is that she held a “digital citizenship bootcamp” and a “parent social media bootcamp.” I wonder what she included in the boot camp for the students and what she said to parents. Here are some of my thoughts of what I would include in a boot camp: defining outcomes for using Twitter and Instagram (and other social networking sites); understanding cyber bullying, digital footprints, and copyright laws; and protecting privacy. This image from International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) really sums up my thinking.

But is a boot camp enough? As teachers, I know that we need to provide our students with explicit instruction on digital citizenship, but the instruction has to be ongoing. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, we need to ensure that our students continue to understand their responsibility as (digital) citizens. I’m sure as different situations arose that this teacher continued to navigate with her students and the parents the nuances that may exist in being a good digital citizen. And that’s what we hope when we gradually release responsibility, right? We hope that students learn how to navigate new tools in a safe environment with the support of a teacher who is facilitating the learning.

But I feel as though there are still many school districts that still block Twitter and Instagram use. I think that we are still afraid of releasing responsibility to the students (and even to teachers sometimes). There is a lot to fear, but should the fear hold us back? It didn’t hold this teacher back, and she intentionally took steps to move toward using social networking to advance learning. So I keep wondering, if we truly believe in student-centered learning, don’t we need to allow teachers and students the ability to use social networking as a tool for learning?

Let me know your thoughts. After all, I’m not done learning.

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