Consider the launch dates for the most widely used social media sites in the past ten years. We begin in 2001 with the launch of Wikipedia, which became a destination site for many students as they research topics. Of course the challenges would come because of how posts can be edited by the audience for any wikipedia item, make it a challenge for students to find unfiltered, purely factual information. Flash forward to 2003 and the release of MySpace. Young people flocked to the site in search of way to stay connected with peers. It also became a flash point for the danger of putting personal information out there; particularly where adolescents are concerned. As the public wrestled with the issues surrounding how much is too much information to put on a site; Facebook would launch in 2004…first famously at Harvard and then spreading to other universities around the country/world. Facebook quickly made its way to K-12 campus sites. We round out the most widely used social media sites with Twitter in 2006. The idea of micro-blogging was appealing for text savvy kids and smart phones.
As with most other emerging technologies, young people lead the way. Most adults have at least gone to two or more of these social media sites. Many have an account and use it on a regular basis. It is also true that many schools block most, if not all, of these sites. Schools and communities struggle with decency laws and how to focus students on their study rather than aimless use of technology. There are now, however, a growing movement of schools and communities that are using social media as an instructional tool. Teachers challenge students to correct and post items on Wiki. Schools and even classes communicate and share important information via Facebook and Twitter. Many schools are now creating YouTube Channels to upload their own original content. Educators using these social media platforms argue that these are tools the students use daily and if schools don’t make use of them, they close off part of the world these students know, as well as hinder any progressive growth of knowledge as a whole.
My natural curiosity is as a history teacher. I look at the last of these major platforms (Twitter in 2006) and think to myself, why haven’t we seen a new platform or variety thereof come out since? We saw four immerge within three years. What’s next? Is innovation within social media running it’s course and losing steam? I doubt it. Perhaps the worldwide recession plays a role in why we haven’t seen something new that’s taken hold like these since. Perhaps it’s just that the platforms of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are just now being fully realized. Whatever the answer is, history would dictate that it’s not done yet. It never is. What will the next technological jump be? How will schools react? What lessons have we learned that can help districts deal with whatever comes next?