Interesting article I found on Mashable from Greg Ferenstein. Read the entire article here:
The modern American school faces rough challenges. Budget cuts have caused ballooning class sizes, many teachers struggle with poorly motivated students, and in many schools a war is being waged on distracting technologies. In response, innovative educators are embracing social media to fight back against the onslaught of problems. Technologies such as Twitter and Skype offer ideal solutions as inexpensive tools of team-based education.
Pockets of experimentation are emerging all around the world, and I hope to inspire my fellow teachers with some stories of success. From cell phones to social media, below are three schools that have chosen to go with the flow of popular technology to turn the tide for education.
Skype and Language Learning
Why force students to yawn over a textbook when a real-life native speaker is only a Skype (Skype) call away? At Marquette University, Spanish students hone their foreign language skills with frequent webcam chats with their English-learning counterparts in South America.
“I absolutely fell in love with this program,” wrote one student. Professor Janet Banhidi, the brains behind the virtual language exchange, said Skype conversation gives students a surprisingly authentic experience. As a teacher (and fluent speaker), she can only give her students limited 1-on-1 attention. With Skype, every student has weekly access to a free personal tutor.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of using Skype is the radical increase in motivation. A whopping 85.3% of Janet’s students kept in touch with their digital pen-pals outside of the classroom through Facebook (Facebook). “In the end, the best part of this exchange was gaining a friend who I still today talk with on Facebook” said one student. Additionally, though some of her students enroll to simply fulfill a language requirement, many participants have gone on to major in Spanish from the experience. Students who go above and beyond mandatory assignments will be more likely to remember class material and apply it when they get out into the working world.
While many schools around the country have declared all-out war on mobile devices, Wiregrass High School took a decidedly different approach, integrating cell phones into the entire educational experience. Students exchange questions and answers with their teachers via SMS and browse classroom blogs for additional instruction. Moreover, as an efficient collaborative tool, students can quickly trade notes or take a snapshot of the blackboard for later studying.
Like with any tool, students do misuse the privilege, but according to the school’s principal the number of cell-phone related infractions is “minuscule.” Perhaps this is because the policy permits students to use cell phones socially between classes, giving them a much needed digital fix throughout the day. Wiregrass’s experience pairs nicely with similar workplace-related research which shows that giving employees periodic down-time with the Internet actually boosts productivity. In the end, fighting pervasive technologies may just sap the energy of everyone involved.