How social media change school culture

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This section will reflect upon:
-how school culture changes due to social media
-how to account for these changes in your teaching and learning environment.


Social media and culture

Although social media provides a school with the opportunity to embrace the world their learners inhabit in a range of ways, it can also bring with it barriers that must be overcome if this engagement is to be carried out effectively.
Schools, teachers and education in general are often slow in taking up opportunities to engage with new technology and new ways of using the Internet. This is often due to the costs involved, the infrastructure within the school and the general approach to education set out by the governing body or government in control. The hierarchy of leadership at the national, local and school level creates the boundaries within which cultures can be created. Teachers are often expected to follow the dictates of their superiors regardless of other cultural aspects of the school.

Although many teachers already engage personally in the world of social media, there are often few opportunities for them to see or use the potential benefits of these in an educational setting.
Amongst anthropologists there is an old saying that fish would be the last creatures to discover water. This might also be attributed to school culture and teaching. Just as water surrounds and envelops fish, affecting their everyday existence, so culture surrounds and envelops teachers, forming their perspectives and influencing their decisions and actions. And yet, the opportunity to engage in this culture is seldom acted upon.
While culture is neither static nor stagnant, but dynamic and fluid, so should the culture of a school be active in participating, developing and creating the culture that surrounds and lives within.
Even when engagement in the culture of social media is taken on by a school, a range of issues still present themselves.
Although, there are many platforms that allow schools and teachers to control their online community, there is often an issue caused by the lack of knowledge that many teachers possess in using these platforms, at least as smoothly as their students understand them to be.
While collaboration may be encouraged, it is also important to ensure that the range of engagement is provided for the learners to see and interact with, otherwise they will merely view the school presenting information without offering access points for them to join in.
Though learners may be invited to produce content, this involves the presence held by the school to be more than just a fad or marketing tool.


CHECKLIST: assessing social media for education

In a didactical setting the use of social media implies empowering the learner to actively bring in own knowledge into a learning community. However we always have to be careful to consider the added value of using social media in education. The checklist made by Erno Mijland is a good way to evaluate if a Web 2.0 application is useful in the class room: (source: Erno Mijland. Smihopedia. "Aan de slag met sociale media in het onderwijs", Middelbeer,InnoDoks, 2012,128 p.)

  • What is the added value of using an ICT application if compared with other means to perform the same learning activity?
  • What technical stuff do you need in order to use this application? (Microphones,camera, bandwith, plugins,...) Does the application work within different operatingsystems (Windows, IOS, Mac, Android,…)
  • Is the learning curve needed to familiarise yourself with the application in proportion to the time the application will effectively be used in the class room?
  • Does the application’s interface match with the target group? (“look and feel”, language, user friendly, interactive, intuitive)
  • Is a minimum age required to create an account?
  • How does the application match with other ICT applications (LMS, office suite software, whiteboard etc) used by the school and with the schools ICT policy (privacy, legal issues,…)?
  • Is it an application allowing you to share outcomes within a closed community between teachers and pupil(s)?
  • Does the application allow feed-back between pupils?
  • Does the application allow a teacher to manage and monitor the pupils using it?
  • Can the outcomes be exported from the application to be re-used in another environment? Can they be “embedded”?
  • Which organisation is behind the application and what is their business model? Seen from this perspective, is it justified to allow pupils to use it?


Employ these questions when you are considering how to use social media within your own teaching and learning environment. Remember to both embrace the concept of social media, while also being aware of its pitfalls. This approach does not solve all learners needs, and it does mean that ‘traditional’ approaches are suddenly redundant. What it offers however a change in the culture of your learning environment – embrace it.


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