Huffman, S. (2013). Benefits and pitfalls: Simple guidelines for the use of social networking tools in k-12 education. Education, 134, 154-160.
In the article, Benefits and Pitfalls: Simple Guidelines for the Use of Social Networking Tools in K-12 Education, Huffman (20 13) not only examines the advantages and disadvantages of social networking tools, but also discuss how districts can plan effectively for such tools. This includes taking a look at professional development and the role of teacher preparation programs.
Huffman states, “Social networking tools provide ample opportunities for children and young adults to explore ones boundaries of self through presentation of self, learning, building relationships, exposure to other diverse groups and perspectives and the self management of privacy and intimacy” (as citied by Livingston & Blake, 2010). In other words, social networking tools are a benefit because they allow individuals to discover who they are. In addition, these tools allow students to extend learning beyond the traditional classroom setting. Some disadvantages highlighted include teacher and students sharing private information and cyber bullying.
Huffman (2013) presents the SIMPLE Model as a plan for using social networking tools in school districts. There are six components to this plan:
1. Student/staff assessment – knowing the skills that already exist among teachers and students will allow for proper training;
2. Inventory – a complete inventory of existing resources will allow for availability of technology resources;
3. Measurement – assessing current and future needs of the district in regards to new technologies and a standards aligned curriculum will aid with technology training;
4. Planning – with any tool, teachers should use a professional account with students and parents and all safety features should be used;
5. Leadership – teachers use social networking tools and have continued professional development in order to grow as a professional;
6. Evaluation – assessing after each planning cycle will allow for new needs with technology to be met.
What role do teacher preparation programs play? Huffman (2013) states, “Having a basic set of skills in crucial for all educational leaders and classroom teachers” (p.159). Teachers, both future and present, must be up to date with current technology tools in order to benefit student learning and growth.
It is evident that school districts must protect their teachers and students from the pitfalls of social networking tools. A plan should be put in place at the district level to ensure cyber safety. The SIMPLE Model provides sound guidelines to aid in the development of that plan. Technology in education is not going to disappear; in fact, it is becoming a necessity more than ever. As technology continues to evolve, so should educators. That is, districts must continue to educate both teachers and students about these new technologies and how to protect themselves from social networking tools.