The Role of Schools - Developing Student Social Skills


A Church sign on the way to the swimming pool this weekend read:


"Forbidden fruit. Creats many jams."

When we focus only on the non-virtual social culture of schools, are we abrogating our responsibility to help our children develop social skills they will need as adults? 

As I was poring through my morning email spam, an article from THE Journal caught my attention. It wasn't the article's title--The Virtual School Debate--that hooked me, but a sentence embedded part of the way through the teaser article.

Certainly, educating and preparing students for a successful future is far and away the No. 1 mission of every school, but it is not the only thing schools do: Among other things, they also serve a custodial function, provide hot meals and help young people develop social skills they'll need as adults.
If I could revise that line, it would read, Schools also help young people develop social skills they'll need as adults.

That's a pretty tall order, especially in these times where social media is how teens and tweens primarily interact with each other (a world with stories of Jaycee Dugard haunting our movements outside our house), isn't it? And, this article isn't the only one advocating this perspective. Consider this paragraph from an engaging read on Social Skills and School by Dr. Candy Lawson:
School is not only a place where children learn reading, writing and math. It is also a place where they learn to get along with other people and develop social skills. Social skills are the skills we need to interact adaptively in our cultural environment. Although students don't get grades on social tests from their teachers, their peers are constantly giving them "grades" on "social tests" every day. If a child does well on these "tests", he is apt to be well liked and happy. He will enjoy school and look forward to coming to school. If a child fails these tests, she is apt to feel disconnected and left out.
Failing a social test can be more painful to a child than failing a reading or science test. For some children, social skills can be the hardest subject to pass in school. Social skills play a very important role in a child's emotional health and well-being.
The success of teachers and administrators in helping students develop social competence depends on their ability to (a) develop a school-wide culture of social competence, (b) infuse the curriculum with situation-specific social skills lessons that target key behaviors, and (c) match the level and intensity of instruction to students' social skills deficits (Gresham, 1998; Sugai & Lewis, in press).
While I'm sure we could play this game all day--finding quotes on the internet that testify to the role schools must play in helping students develop social skills they need to interact adaptively in our cultural environment, I'm wondering why it's taking so long for people to acknowledge another idea--showing kids how to be social TODAY means modeling appropriate use of social media/networking tools. 

Andy Affleck, cited in this NPR Article on Social Networks, points out, "that children need to be socialized in the online world just as much as they do in the real world." The NPR article points out:

Despite ominous reports of cyberbullying and "Facebook depression" among young people, the number of parents who are cool with their children — between the ages of 10 and 12 — having a social media account has doubled in a year...It is legally verboten — by the Children's Online Protection Act of 1998 — for a website to collect personal information or track the cybertrail of anyone younger than 13, without parental consent.

According to the New York Times, a 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project reported that 38 percent of 12-year-olds in the United States participate in social networks. And in June 2011, Consumer Reports estimated that about 7.5 million people who use Facebook are younger than 13.
 "For some teens and tweens, social media is the primary way they interact socially, rather than at the mall or a friend's house. ... A large part of this generation's social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cellphones. Parents need to understand these technologies so they can relate to their children's online world — and comfortably parent in that world."
According to the New York Times, a 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project reported that 38 percent of 12-year-olds in the United States participate in social networks. And in June 2011, Consumer Reports estimated that about 7.5 million people who use Facebook are younger than 13.
Are we, as educators, abrogating our responsibility to model social media use that is appropriate, failing to engage our students when we walk away from the use of social media in schools? Or, should this be something teachers are NOT responsible for? In spite of the assertions that schools should develop social skills, should this be something that PARENTS are responsible for?

What happens to those students when we ignore this subject except to ban and castigate teachers?


Via Dean Shareski's collection at
http://www.flickr.com/photos/shareski/3105810379/in/set-72157606411341392/
Finally, there is tremendous value in developing social networks...they essentially connect us to each other, giving us access to a wide range of ideas and information. 

What we learn is quickly becoming perishable. Static knowledge has an important and valuable role, but things are changing so fast, and we are being called upon to do more and more, so we need to develop a stream or flow of rapid tacit knowledge acquisition.
Most of the new things we will need to learn are best learned while working with others, not from a textbook or lecture (Source: Education Innovation)

“We have greatly overestimated value of access to info and greatly underestimated value of access to each other." - Clay Shirky as cited in Education Innovation
Shouldn't we want our children to start building those networks now, when they are younger, rather than later when need to do it for professional purposes? Imagine if had learned to collaborate with others only in a work setting....


Other relevant entries:


Image Reference
Bridge. http://www.ezeedictionary.com/imagedict/a/abrogate.jpg


Hopping electrical towers. via Google+



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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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