When Alexander Graham Bell tried to market his new telephone in England, government ministers told him that England would never need telephones. They would always have a supply of messenger boys. When I grew up in the 1930s, a long distance telephone call was only used for a birth or death of a family member. In World War II, long distance phone calls were used by servicemen to contact loved ones back home.
Today I have a friend with cancer who is being treated by the National Institutes of Health. She has her own blog where she documents the progress of her treatment for family and friends. I live on the East Coast, and many of my family members live on the West Coast. With Facebook, I am more in touch with the family than ever before. Sometimes I get more information about purple hair and body piercing by the younger members than I want to know. So far I have not received an announcement of tattoos. I have not checked my email this morning.
Young people and adults have privately financed the personal and corporate infrastructure of iPhones, iPads and iPods that make this vast social network possible.
The challenge for teachers is how to use these new resources for learning. We must develop rules for usage, but social media should never be banned from the classroom.
I mentioned earlier the documentation of my friend with cancer. My niece and nephew had a deaf blind son nine months ago. They are documenting in a blog his growth and progress including videos of his development. They provide a guideline for development and pro and con issues with respect to cochlear implants that are shared with family and friends. The archived blog may also serve as a guide for other parents faced with similar challenges.
I am working on a NASA high school STEM project where students are using social media via iPhones and iPads to study and work in teams on establishing a Mars Habitat. They are working together to design a balloon to study the lower atmosphere of Mars.
We believe social media can be a powerful force for learning at any age. When email first began we had stories of teenagers engaged with senior scientists in discussing often-sophisticated scientific information. The social media broke down the barriers of age. Such exchanges opened up the wisdom of age to the young mind and the young minds often gave a fresh insight to the senior scientist.
Social media can and will become a powerful learning tool.
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