This article was written by Noa Gutow-Ellis, a high school sophomore in Houston, Texas. She’s passionate about all things related to the Arab Spring and 21st Century Education. As an 8th grader, Noa gave a TEDx talk about the power of social media.
We can do better.
Better than the outdated, limiting, and somewhat irrelevant resources that are textbooks. Better than pulling out the bolded words in textbooks and quizzing students on them the next day. Better than focusing solely on events that took place hundreds or thousands of years ago instead of learning about events taking place right now.
Social media can transform a class from a traditional, cookie cutter, textbook-using class into an innovative, fascinating, and extremely relevant course. For example, a class that focuses on current events. Everyone deserves to understand what’s going on in the world. In school, why aren’t current events as important as events that took place hundreds of years ago? Moving beyond the textbook and utilizing resources like social media doesn’t mean we’re disregarding events of the past.
It can mean the opposite.
While learning about the Arab Spring, a class could analyze the history of tyrannical regimes of the Middle East in order to understand the events that took place in early 2011. When ancient events are compared to things pertinent to our lives, we’re able to have a deeper, clearer understanding of what took place. Moving beyond the textbook allows for just that: the class could explore Twitter hashtags that activists used, read books like Revolution 2.0, and watch YouTube videos of protests. Without a textbook, the possibilities are virtually endless.
A few paragraphs on a subject in a textbook cannot compare to the infinite amount of resources available on the Internet. In turn, it’s an important skill to be able to discern a valid source on the Internet. A class that makes plenty of use of the Internet is a timely opportunity to teach students that valuable lesson.
Whether filling a Google Reader with a variety of sources to identify types of bias or using an Interactive Whiteboard to track an event while it’s happening, replacing (or even supplementing) textbooks affords an interesting, always different, exciting way for students to connect with the world around them.
As a student, I want to feel like I’m in the 21st century, both in and out of the classroom.
Image attribution flickr user len