My mother told me of a conversation she had with my younger sisters (who happened to be 19, and 15 at the time).
Mom: "Does anyone have a list of everyone's email?"
19 year old sister: "I have some emails, but not everyone's"
15 year old sister: "Email? Seriously Mom? Who even emails anymore?"
Mom and 19 year old sister: Stares at 15 year old sister in disbelief
When I was in high school, Email and AOL Instant messenger was considered all the social networking tools we had. A lot has changed in the last ten years since I graduated high school. Social networking is a form of communication. There are so many tools that can be used for social networking today from Facebook to Snapchat to Instagram to Twitter and Vimeo. Our students are so used to utilizing tools such as these for communication and the latest tools are always ever-changing. To put it plainly, social networking is never going away, it's only going to evolve.
Once administrators, teachers, and parents understand that social networking is here to stay, only then can we start to look at how it can be embedded in the curriculum. As teachers, we are always trying to reach our students and get them engaged. In order to do that, we have to incorporate what they use, and that is social networking.
Social networking has its pros and cons.
Increase participation: Students are more likely to participate in activities - especially if they are shy.
Increase collaboration: Using Google Drive to collaborate will help increase collaboration. All students are involved in the activity instead of only one person doing all the writing
Keeps everyone aware of everything going on. This means due dates, projects, tests, etc and even parents can be kept up to date. Students can also post questions and have the teacher respond and everyone sees the questions/answers.
Distraction: This has to be one of the most common issues with social networking in the classroom. Our students truly don't have the maturity to make sure social network isn't a distraction from the task at hand.
Cyber-bullying: Since there is a "wall", some students feel they are invincible and will bully others on social networking and can do it anonymously. Instructors will need to monitor for this consistently.
Posting inappropriate content: This can be especially true for high school students. Just the other day, I had all students work together on a Google Document and the document was up on the Smartboard, but that didn't prevent some students from posting off-task images of MEMEs or inappropriate photographs.
We need to realize that social networking can be a valuable asset to the classroom, but at the same time understand that we need to teach our students how to use it appropriately and have a way to monitor the use of social network. More often than not, educators, administrators, district officials do not trust students enough to allow them freedom. More often than not, students will test the limits. It is a matter of what we do when those students test the limits. Do we remove social networking privileges from those students? Why should we penalize an entire student body for a handful of students who want to test the limits?