Monday, August 8, 2016

Lessons for teachers taken from Facebook

#Education: This should be of interest to teachers. An amazingly obvious fact of Facebook, and contrary to common belief among educators, is this: "American young people LOVE to write!"
Students who, in school, cringe at the sight of pen and paper are more than ready to take on the world when they have the freedom to determine the topic, the target audience, and the length of article. Furthermore, students and young adults who normally would only write a few words end up writing thousands of words with a little prompting, with responses from their friends. Nevertheless, for all their love of writing, many of them are not very good at it ... yet. I don't say that as a put down because I am glad to see them attempting to communicate, and would like for them to be able to do it more effectively. Yes, the quality of the writing -- and sometimes of the thinking -- is not always the best, but they are writing, lots, and here's the key: Nobody is assigning letter grades to these comments or marking them up with red ink. And that is a good thing. No letter grades, no pass or fail. Just communication: This brings out fluency. I think this phenomenon has implications for teachers. Firstly, Facebook observations should inform our teaching practices. And secondly, they should give us an unsolicited measure of where students are often strongest and weakest. If we could incorporate the non-judgmental and self determining aspects of Facebook into our coursework, would we get improved volume and frequency of writing from students? I think they answer is yes. From an educator's viewpoint, the more challenging task then would be to improve the effectiveness of this writing.

What we have not taught our students

In spite of all our efforts, it seems that in many cases we have done a poor job at teaching effective communication. This opinion is based upon my reading of Facebook. I say so because so many younger people do not seem to be able, when it comes to their own writing, to distinguish between opinions and facts, but even more limiting, they have difficulty distinguishing between name calling and argumentation. Although, perhaps they do distinguish it, but reaching an early frustration point in every controversial conversation, resort to the skills they have learned best: name calling, put-downs, and insults. Teachers, your work is cut out. You must help students to express themselves with the use of content, of ideas and of facts, rather than resorting to mostly negative emotions. Good luck to all educators as we approach the start of another new school year.

Comments will be welcome. Thanks. #teaching #writing #Facebook #education #howtoteachwriting

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