May 06

Social Skills and Technology in the Classroom

Posted by BSCAA in The Alumni Blog on May 06, 2013

By Amelia Clune, 2011

I have been thinking recently about how new technologies are changing the way individuals socialize, particularly the parallels between the ways in which children enjoy interacting in the classroom and the way adolescents and adults are interacting “virtually”.

A few nights ago I had dinner with a family which included two children in their teenage years (one a seventh grader, and the other an eleventh grader). While eating, and throughout the course of the meal, the siblings were on their iPhones. When queried about why it was necessary to continue this activity during the meal, the boy responded: “What?! I’m a very social person.” This admission was certainly not in line with what I might define as “social” (as he was not talking to his family or the guests), but he saw his actions as social, and this is in and of itself interesting.

He was using an iPhone application called Draw Something 2, an immensely popular program which allows one to draw something, and then to share it with a virtual “friend”. Thereafter, the friend is able to see not only the finished product, but also the drawing process. I believe herein lies the appeal of the activity. This practice imitates the activities of an art class, in other words, the process of creating art can instantly be shared with a “friend”: it is one thing to look at works of art, but it is altogether a different experience watching art being created.

While by no means was this child, nor his friends, creating pieces of fine art, they were redefining the concept of “socializing” by sharing their art-making process.

The classroom is a place to test out ideas, and to “practice” them among supportive peers and teachers. This is why the terms “workshop,” “writing process,” “cycle of inquiry,” in their “interactivity,” appeal to educators and can be used to describe lesson structures and pedagogical approaches. Learning is a process, and the classroom is a social space; technology is capitalizing on this through its innovative use of sharing the “process” rather than simply the product (which by itself would not be as nearly interesting,) and in doing so helps develop social skills that contribute to building relationships.

As the twelve-year old proudly displayed his latest on-screen illustration, he confessed that through watching his friends his “skills have grown quite a bit”. As educators, we need to continue to revisit this the notion of “process” over product, and collaboration over competition. “Dewey asserts that all human experience is social and involves contact and communication,” learning therefore mandates socializing. As educators, we may facilitate the development of these innate skills by incorporating them more consciously and transparently in the classroom.

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tagged social skills, technology
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