I want to thank Kristen Swanson for crafting this informative post! Kristen is the Technology Director for Springfield Township School District in PA. She is also a talented Google Certified Teacher, a Keystones Technology Integrator, and a good friend of mine who has a wonderful understanding of what students need. See her blog here.My journey as an educator has led me down many paths. One of those paths has been helping students with special needs understand the nuances of social media. Many students with autism or pervasive development disorder (PDD) have trouble identifying social cues in real life contexts. For these students, identifying cues in social media can be virtually mind boggling! The best way to prepare students for the lives that they are living outside of your classroom is to explicitly teach these skills in safe environments.
In the past, I’ve used NING to teach these skills in conjunction with some excellent teachers, however Google + has all the components necessary to make it a great tool to use with students with special needs.
- You can teach students to build circles, similar to the way they do in normal life. This feature cannot be replicated in a NING. Teaching students to sort their connections in a visual manner is a skill that can easily be transferred to real-life situations.
- You can teach students how to share selectively to keep themselves safe and socially appropriate. Showing students which types of content are appropriate to share with different groups of people can be really tough. Graphic organizers and T charts can help students acquire these skills. If students continue to struggle, model this for them. It fits in well when sharing “weekend news.”
- You can teach students that someone who does not follow you back is uncomfortable sharing with you. Many students who try to “follow” or “friend” their typical peers do not deal with rejection well. They often try again and again to “follow” or “friend” them. Google + allows these students to follow without a reciprocal action. Teaching students what this means could allow them to function in this social space.