We have all seen the telephone commercial featuring a dad typing a mindless twitter post with his phone. “I’m...sitting...on...the...patio”. Even though the commercial aired a couple of years ago, that feeling about social networking still reverberates around the halls of education. Does it have a place in the classroom? Like many teachers, I have often struggled with that question and how to introduce Twitter and Facebook into my lessons. I have struggled until now.
Five years ago, my video production students began working with a local non-profit to produce videos about the repercussions of becoming a teen parent. You should know that our county ranks number two in California for number of teen births and is 31 points higher than the state average. Every year, my students produce a video that addresses the issue. This year, they wanted to finally start offering solutions instead of just identifying the problem. They all agreed that we needed to stay away from statistics and start hearing from real kids. They wondered what kids in areas with lower teen birth rates were doing to avoid becoming teen parents and how do we reach them. Enter social networking.
Using a Facebook fan page and twitter posts, we recently launched a project called “Remaining Young, Refusing to be a Statistic”. For the last couple weeks, students and I have been posting the link to the project’s Google Site. It features an embedded Google Form with survey questions, a Google Map of participants, and examples of past videos. To continue the spreading the word, we even embedded a Twitter link in the confirmation of the Form (Thanks to Alan Levine for that trick). Using these free collaborative tools, my students worked together to create a one-stop site that enables teens and adults from around the country (and beyond!) to help put an end to this ever-present problem.
The idea is to let the survey answers shape the direction of the video. In addition, they hope that some participants submit a one minute webcam video that can be used in the final production. In other words, they are crowd sourcing their own video.
From a teacher’s perspective, this project is bigger than just making a class video. Using a variety of social networking applications gives students a view of how to use these tools to impact not only their school work, but their community. It is empowering for them to know that the Google Site that they worked together to create is being viewed by complete strangers, an authentic audience, from around the world. The idea of mapping participants is a great way for them to visualize that their work is far reaching. Finally, the responses from participants gives them a broader look at customs, norms, and actions of students from an area outside of our community.
We hope that you will consider filling out the survey and share the project with your network. The students are projected to finish the final video in June and will post it to the site. With your help, we are teaching students that these tools are not “mindless” and that they can be used to impact our world.