While this week’s readings focus on youth social and media learning networks, the principles and ideas can be applicable across any age group. Librarians have been trying to engage with patrons through social media for years, but it is sometimes the young adult or teen librarian who is involved with planning and maintaining the library’s digital life. At the last YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium in 2012, I took part in a discussion with fellow librarians about the issues and concerns that we had with integrating social media into library service. There were two main discussion points that came from the talk. First, some people were very concerned with budget decision makers decreeing that electronic service can take the place of face-to-face service, and second, people complained a lot about the amount of red tape and policy setbacks that prevent electronic interactions between educators and their learners, especially in school systems. My previous employer took draconian steps to guarantee that only the official statements of the company were available in electronic and print formats, and that was above and beyond the district-wide policy prohibiting contact on social media between school employees and students. Knowing your school’s policies can definitely save you a lot of grief.
It is so frustrating because using social media networks in education can be such an engaging and meaningful (not to mention free in some cases) method of getting information and interaction flowing. The article about students using Scratch to build educational media learning experiences is a great example that can be used as ammunition for educators who want to propose using educational social media by stating that “access to the community created opportunities for individuals to imagine new possibilities for creation; develop their technical and aesthetic abilities; create more technically, aesthetically, or conceptually sophisticated projects than would have been possible to create independently; and reflect on their development as creators of interactive media” (Brennan, Monroy-Hernandez, & Resnick, 2010, p. 82). Students were able to build connections, not just with each other, but also between content and media literacy skills.
The article about students using Remix World also gives good data and evidence to help argue the case for young people learning through social networks. It especially emphasizes the importance of planning and connecting social interactions with learning because “fulfilling formal educational goals requires that curriculum designers and educators develop tools that help to facilitate and scaffold learning and the also encourage users to take ownership of the environment through their contributions and participation to the site” (Zywica, Richards, & Gomez, 2011, p. 40). Students take an active part in their learning through integrating technologies that require less direct instruction to use because they already have prior knowledge of social media norms. Less technological instruction on things they know anyway helps to keep students interested in their learning by not boring them with repetition. They can utilize skills they already have to enable them to move forward with their own learning goals.
I especially enjoyed the shorter article about the dance competition in Brazil. It made me think of my friend who made it to the finale of this year’s Hooping Idol, an international hooping competition, and it also reminded me of an episode of Touch where one of the seemingly unconnected but obviously incredibly connected storylines was about a young boy trying to break into his school so he could access a webcam to be able to win an international dance competition. The dancers in Brazil, through technology and social media, are able to be proud of their skills and have potential opportunities in their futures. “The idea is that, through dance, the social UPP units can reach youngsters and open the dialogue with them in the pacified favelas” (Recuero, 2012). By giving them options outside their limited backgrounds, social media opens doors for these dancers who might not have any other way out of their situations. It’s an extreme example, but it is a model that can work anywhere. By showing these sorts of social media networks to students as well as administrators, we can start to change the way that people view social learning to help educators leverage online communities for greater, more meaningful learning.