Pencils, Backpacks, and Perspective: Going Beyond Textbooks

I just finished reading a rather fantastic article by a 10th grader on the power of social media in the classroom (check it out here), and I have to say that I’m not only impressed but inspired. Social media is a relatively untapped resource when it comes to its educational potential. More so than ever we have speedy and easy access to news from all over the world, so why not simultaneously learn history and branch into current events?

The author of the article brings up the example of the Arab Spring, and how teachers might have used social media to explore the events while also teaching the historical events which lead to them. A brilliant idea, as far as I can tell. Textbooks, while useful, are not always as relevant as we’d like them to be. I’ve discussed the impact of globalization on education before on this blog, but I think this connects perfectly. Students are digital citizens, and thereby more connected to the world than generations preceding them, so why not emphasize worldly education? Social media provides a significant avenue for pursuing this.

This, it should be noted, is not to say that learning history is irrelevant. As a bit of a history nerd myself, I am certainly not advocating we stop teaching history. I am simply saying that we ought to be teaching history alongside current events, exploring how the past has shaped our present, and how it might go on to shape our future. What better way to teach social responsibility and global citizenship than to demonstrate that actions have major consequences, some of which linger for centuries down the road?

It seems especially important in times like these to foster a true understanding of what is going on in the world and why. While textbooks can provide the history, social media can adequately illustrate current events, and then it is just up to students and teachers to make the connections between them. Its learning potential might be underestimated, but social media is without a doubt a teaching tool unlike any we’ve ever seen before.

What do you think? Should we be incorporating more social media into classrooms?