Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I WILL Talk in Class, I WILL Talk in Class, I WILL Talk in Class!

Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation. 

-Mark Twain

Yesterday, while discussing social media in education with Eric Sheninger and NPR’s Claudio Sanchez, a question arose regarding the stigma associated with social media. To paraphrase, Claudio basically asked Is social media “good or bad” for students, and if it is good, then why is it so negatively perceived? Of course, there are several reasons for the stigma, some more valid than others, but what occurred to me as another top culprit is much more fundamental and has very little to do with media.

The social component of social media runs contrary to the archaic yet ubiquitous reverence for silence over conversation in the classroom. While many innovative educators would much rather have a slightly noisy yet energetic and focused classroom, a vast majority of teachers and the public are still reassured that learning is taking place if students are quietly focused on “the task at hand”. In conferences with parents, the academic and social development of students is often referred to as mutually exclusive, with the focus on socialization frequently serving as a detriment to the other, much more valued skill set.

Silence over socialization is a flawed and severely outdated educational value, however. As a learner, I thrive on connection with others, picking up favorite bits of knowledge in Twitter chats as well as face-to-face conversations. As I write this, I’m very quiet and focused, and there is indeed a time for that in learning, but I am demonstrating learning and analysis in this task whereas yesterday, while engaged in conversations both online and off, I certainly did more actual learning. Collaboration and communication are two of the 4 Cs of the 21st Century Skills Framework (Partnership for Partnership for 21st Century Skills) and two of the 6 Cs from NAIS’s list. How are we to foster collaboration and communication without valuing our old nemesis talking-in-class? This is about as paradoxical as Twain’s sentiment.

Our underlying perception of social as separate from (or worse, an obstacle to) learning prevents us from embracing social media as a platform to even greater academic growth. Once we place a premium on talking-in-class and out of class, we can take a step in reversing the stigma of all forms of social learning, including social media in education.   

Photo Credit 1: NBC Latino:

Photo Credit 2: Partnership for 21st Century Skills p21_rainbow_id254.jpg


  1. Great points made Tiffany....the silence of the classroom, the judgment cast on teachers for too much or too little talk. May I remind us of Vygotsky.

    The great Vygotsky (early 1900's) discussed learning as a social process that requires collaborative dialogue and interaction with skilled peers. To really learn something you have to engage in dialogue with others to make sense of what you're learning. Think, zone of proximal development, scaffolding, reciprocal teaching. Think, sociocultural learning. The basics of learning don't change as the medium does, we are still social beings. Imagine learning another language without speaking, or with limited opportunity to speak? Although there's a time and place to focus independently to test one's own skills, there's a time and value for discussion. Just as we need to scaffold the work of our students during math, reading, and writing, so to do we need to support, structure, and scaffold the work within classroom discussions and with social media. Which reminds me that Vygotsky also stressed the "tools" of learning as important for our intellectual development. It seems that social media is now one of our greatest "tools." Throw it into the tool-kit and make it work in the classroom.

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