I used to think I was a cool kid. I had a pager, an old Compaq PC and a six-disc CD player. This past weekend, I recounted my teenage tech stories to a shocked 10-year-old audience: “You didn’t even have Angry Birds?” And now, when I walk into my own children’s elementary school, there are no chalkboards, word processors or projectors. Whiteboards, tablets and online discussion forums are the foundation of the new classroom. And if it isn’t social, you’re not connecting with today’s youth.
Today’s children and young people are constantly wired into technology. With smartphones, tablets, laptops, video games and digital cameras, today’s kids are media saturated. So, how can educators successfully connect with a student community obsessed with multimedia technology — and not interested in old-school textbooks, chalkboards or brainstorm sessions?
Here are some remarkable statistics:
- Over 50% of kids under 8 years old use mobile devices for media consumption.
- 73% of online teens use social networking.
- 80% of kids under 14 are active online gamers.
- Over 90% of college students have a personal desktop or laptop computer.
- 75% of American teens own a cellphone, and 72% are text messagers – receiving an average of 3,705 texts per month.
A U.S. Department of Education study shows that the best learning environment is a blend between face-to-face instruction and online learning. This hybrid teaching philosophy enables a well-rounded learning experience with live social, tactile interaction and online self-paced learning. And with the borderline obsession with texting, online gaming and social networks, educators and parents step in to ensure that the next generation is balanced between the real and virtual worlds.
In an interview with NPR, author Parry Aftab said, “Like it or not, preteens want social networking. And until or unless Facebook creates special family accounts or Facebook for preteens, there is a need and a market.” Kids want the same social media benefits adults have: free, fast and fun connectivity with the outside world. Social media satisfies both the educator and the student — social and engaging multimedia education.
For both grade school as well as college students, the learning and emotional benefits of social media are incredible. Remote schools, chronically ill children and homeschoolers are no longer isolated because of geography. Global forums and real-time video collaboration educate students on diversity of cultures and thoughts around the globe. That shy kid can now raise a virtual hand to ask for help or bond with peers in a safe environment. And with multiplatform access and support, children can transition their leisurely multimedia use into a skill for development and adult success.
For teachers, social media opens up a new world of learning and active student engagement through multi-classroom collaboration, virtual field trips, innovative homework submissions and more. Multimedia provides a way to engage students, keep lessons exciting and satisfy the needs of many different types of learners. Security is obviously a caution, but schools (and hopefully homes) already have controls on internet access and search— a quick tweak to the protocols, a couple cloud-based social education sites and your classroom’s ready to rock.
Come on, all, this just makes sense. Today’s kids have access to the technology. They’re already using social networking. They are obsessed with multimedia. In order to engage today’s younger generations, a balanced approach to social media is a no brainer.
Are you like me, trying to keep up with the fast-paced technology evolution? Are you an educator looking into social classrooms? A parent trying to educate a text-obsessed child? Share your thoughts and experiences as you reach into today’s multimedia youth cult