The eighties brought us the rubix cube, the nineties was all about the internet but the noughties will undoubtedly be remembered for the advent of social media. September 11th will dominate textbooks and will have stuck in everyone’s mind but social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter changed communication forever and have inevitably made a significant impact on education and careers. In an intriguing student news feature, Young Academic Editor Charles Whitworth takes a look at just how much the social revolution has changed things for young people and the paths you will take.
Social media is now being embraced by even the hardiest traditionalist as perhaps the best way to get messages to the masses and individuals. First seen as somewhat of a fad, Facebook is now the most used search engine on the web and even figures like Barack Obama and The Queen have a page.
A far cry from the printing press of a few hundred years ago, the social media phenomenon really underlines the advancements that have been made in communication over the last few decades. Whereas news from the front lines of the trenches less than a century ago would take several days to reach London, a news article can now be published to millions of readers in a microsecond – much to the dismay of politicians and celebrities alike. Just as Gutenberg revolutionised the book printing industry, Messrs Zuckerberg and Dorsey have gone a step further and plunged media and education well and truly in to the 21st Century.
Social Media Should Be Embraced
Students and young professionals can now retrieve their data, news and even publish their work via their smart phones and transmit using their ever impressive Facebook, YouTube or Twitter applications. Such interactivity undoubtedly has its critics and doubters but what is certain is that we have a wealth of information at our fingertips which can only be good for our overall knowledge and level of education.
The rising importance and availability of online social networks and their popularity among young people are undeniable facts. The use of the internet is becoming an ever more integral part of young people’s lives and, as a result, they are communicating with each other on an unprecedented scale.
It is not just Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that deserve a mention either. Platforms such as MySpace, Bebo, StumbleUpon, PageFlakes and more (to name them all would be rather monotonous) all play their part with different personalities suiting the various sites. What those dubious of the value of social media fail to recognise is the fact they all blend the use of textbooks and dictionaries with more up-to-date, relevant and authentic multimedia tools.
Social media provides teachers and students with a platform by which they can interact beyond the school walls, and with which teachers can provide tailored and customised feedback and support. Gone surely will be the days of tediously ticking stacks of papers and books, tablets and modern computers will allow more speedy and in depth analysis of work and research.
Teachers, lecturers and private tutors that have been trained more classically may well find the prospect of an educational world dominated by social daunting and even oppose it, but this is natural and nothing that hasn’t happened before. Rubbers on pencils and pocket calculators were criticised in the 80’s and 90’s as they were deemed to encouraged laziness or shortcuts but their value was soon accepted as they freed up time for extra tuition. It may well be less than a decade before social media platforms are accepted fully and allowed to enhance education to the maximum of their potential.
Indeed, the social media revolution has created an innovative teaching ethos with even head teachers realising that they are learners as well as teachers. Of course, as academics they are able to embrace the technologies available to them in order to help them convey their message. It is a fact, perhaps a sad one but a fact all the same, that the current generation are going to be more open to absorbing information via an iPad, computer screen or another interactive medium than they are an OHP, blackboard or whiteboard.
As with any phenomena on the scale of Facebook or Twitter, there are unfortunately drawbacks that need to be contended with. This is especially the case when it involves education and the development of young people. Privacy and bullying are themes that have arisen as a result of social networking; fortunately these can be combated with the implementation of fair usage and the correct supervision.
Bullying is a worry for any student and indeed their parents but research has shown that pupils are far more likely to be bullied on the school bus than they are on any social media site. Similarly, name calling or insults are more likely to be banded around the British classroom that they are Twitter or MySpace. Indeed, each site is invigilated and those found guilty of threatening or abusive behaviour will be banned, usually indefinitely. So, although a serious concern, bullying should be monitored but not used as a reason to stem the use of social media in schools, colleges and universities.
It is rather worrying that a few schools have reacted to the above by blocking social networking sites and social media. This effectively compromises the education of the majority due to the behaviour of the misguided minority. Perhaps these institutions should look at teaching students about the difference between right and wrong and correct use of the media that simply banning the use of such useful educational tools?
The handling and digest of the world’s precious information has now become one of the most important skills we can hope to acquire at any stage of our educational life or career. The advice of Young Academic Education News is to embrace and utilise this in order to benefit your education and ultimately your life and career. Whether teachers like it or not, education is now about successfully processing vast amounts of information, not remembering Kings & Queens, times tables and formulas – these are now retrievable at the click of a button. Learning like so many other things is now available ‘On Demand’.
It is the thoughts of many now that the job of a teacher is actually not to teach but actually to supervise the process of learning via the World Wide Web. These changes meet 21st century students’ needs as well as their desires.