'

Social media...dirty word or essential skill?

I mentioned Chris Brogan in a post yesterday from the Massachusetts Superintendents Technology Conference. He gave the final keynote of the day, entitled "The Internet has changed everything, again.

I mentioned Chris Brogan in a post yesterday from the Massachusetts Superintendents Technology Conference. He gave the final keynote of the day, entitled "The Internet has changed everything, again." Not surprisingly, it was about Web 2.0/social media goodness (he even featured a screenshot from fellow ZDNet blogger, Jennifer Leggio).

So haven't we all heard enough about Web 2.0? As Mr. Brogan himself acknowledged, he hates using the term since we're basically on the edge of Web 3.0 eventually. In the context of the conference today, though, the short answer is "No." Plenty of educators, especially administrators, wouldn't know a blog from their elbow, let alone have a clue how they might use Twitter or Ning in their districts.

In fact, what little they know (I'm making broad generalizations here; if the administrators you know were social media consultants in a former life, feel free to stop reading this post and simply click through one of the ads featured on the page) about Web 2.0 starts with an "M" and rhymes with flyspace. Even technology directors often just see Web 2.0 applications as one more thing they need to block on their content filters.

Another speaker from the conference (Dr. Willard Daggett) made an interesting point. And yes, that means that there were at least two interesting speakers at a conference for school superintendents. I know it's hard to get your head around, but the conference was not a complete waste of time.

Anyway, back to Dr. Daggett. He asked how many of us had Blackberries. An awful lot of us very cheerfully raised our hands. People really do love their CrackBerries. Then he asked how many of us allow our students to use BlackBerries, PDAs, or cell phones on tests. Obviously we all chuckled, but then he pointed out that, while we can't let our students cheat, we're essentially barring them from using tools in class to collaborate that they are expected to use in the real world.

The same goes for social media, often a dirty word in educational circles. Yet social media (whether blogging, Facebook, or even Webkinz) pervades everything our students do and increasingly drives much of what gets done in business. Social media are really just a set of tools that can either be used for stalking young people online or can enable businesses to collaborate across time zones and connect in new and innovative ways.

If administrators and teachers can focus on the latter, we'll be a lot closer to engaging kids in those relevant skills the Gates keep talking about.