Back when I was a high school English teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I wanted teaching English to be fun like my high school art classes. Art class wasn’t about sitting in rows and listening; it was about listening to the radio, getting out of our seats and making something.
While I included as many projects as I could, education and assessment (the students’ and mine) still go hand-in-hand. So, the butts-in-seats standardized lets-try-to-objectify-the-subjective form of assessment was still a part of my class. *Sigh.*
As a coping mechanism, I decided to hand out colored magic markers to the class. Students could doodle on scratch paper, the backs of test papers, or in the marginalia. My purpose was to occupy them while their peers completed their tests. This way students who were mainstreamed learning support would not feel pressured to finish early (unless their eyes strayed, they wouldn’t even know who was finished with the test and who was doodling), and students who might be tempted to chat had other activities.
However, the experiment had unexpected benefits. Students began to write poetry, song lyrics, favorite teams, questions, comments, and notes. I began to respond. In high school, where teachers have 150 students per year, where a teacher only sees a class for 50 minutes per day, where students want to stand out but want to fit in, and where students don’t want to look like they want the attention they desperately need, the personalization I got from the test papers allowed me a window into their worlds.
What does this have to do with social media? Social networks, blogs and microblogs are the marginalia on which students can doodle. Here’s an opportunity to personalize learning. Here’s an opportunity to make something. Here’s an opportunity for students to stand out while fitting in and to get attention that they really need without looking like they are trying.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/ / CC BY 2.0