In The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age, William Kist of Kent State University chronicles the efforts of teachers working to balance the rapid developments of social media with the traditional
and prevailing approaches of teaching and learning in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary classroom settings. According to Kist,
The Socially Networked Classroom "serves as a snapshot in time of the current state of classroom teachers' use of screen-based literacies" (p. 9). By documenting the work of pioneering teachers in the age of new media, Kist places common conceptions
of "doing school" under the microscope and raises valuable questions about the future of literacy education. Furthermore, by providing a host of activities, assignments, and assessments that move new literacies to the forefront, Kist invites his readers to
consider the possibilities for teaching and learning in a new literacies classroom.
Undoubtedly, one of the immediately apparent strengths of
The Socially Networked Classroom is Kist’s approach to organizing the content based on the needs of his readers. Kist borrows from the Starbucks terms for different serving sizes to title each chapter in a fashion that reflects a continuum of classroom
environments ranging from low-tech (“Short”) to unlimited technology access (“Venti”). In between, Kist offers chapters that speak to professionals in moderately limited (“Tall”) and high-tech (“Grande”) classroom environments. This approach assists each reader
in pinpointing where his or her respective district, college, or university falls on the continuum. Likewise, this approach proves useful when readers are identifying those activities that are best suited for their particular teaching contexts.
Another organizational strength of the book is Kist’s use of guiding questions throughout. By framing the content of each chapter with essential questions—for example, “How Do New Formats Transform Writing?”—Kist reminds his readers “it is the questions that
are important rather than the tools we use to explore those questions” (p. 8). While other technology-based resources may lose readers on the journey through cyberspace,
The Socially Networked Classroom maintains a focus on essential questions for teaching and learning in times when conceptions of communication, composition, and literacy are experiencing change.
Throughout the book, Kist provides his readers with a number of activities, assignments, lesson plans, assessments, and rubrics that support effective teaching and learning. Each is applicable to a wide range of settings and
flexible enough to serve a variety of purposes. For the twenty-first century teachers who may be interested in exploring collaborative writing in the classroom, for those seeking to extend conversations that address the impact of audience on one’s writing,
and for those wanting to facilitate multimodal composition using online technologies,
The Socially Networked Classroom houses practical, ready-to-use resources.
As suggested previously, Kist offers something for everyone, regardless of the freedoms or restrictions placed on online technologies that readers may face in their respective teaching contexts. Those limited by concerns related to composing safely in online
spaces, for example, may benefit from sections addressing an essential question like "How Do We Communicate Safely Online?" from the third chapter ("Tall"). Likewise, readily applicable features such as the sample letters to parents made available in the appendix
make it easy for readers to immediately apply the lessons they have learned in their own classrooms.
Though Kist is the sole author of the book, many of the resources provided are contributions from teachers he has made connections with across the nation through his own use of
Twitter, and other social tools. Thus, the ideas pooled come from teachers exploring online technologies in elementary, secondary, and university settings, making the book readily applicable for a greater number of readers. Moreover, the voices of contributing
teachers are threaded throughout in the form of quotations and blog posts from the field. Reading their reflections on the successes and struggles they have faced while exploring new literacies with their students can only help Kist's readers as they apply
such lessons in their daily teaching practice.
The practical nature of William Kist's The Socially Networked Classroom makes it a valuable resource for all teachers, regardless of grade level or subject area. No matter where his readers find themselves on the continuum
of technology access and familiarity, Kist provides salient questions and strategies for considering the potential of social media and the possibilities for teaching and learning in a new literacies classroom. As Kist's readers begin applying his lessons in
their own respective classrooms, the field of literacy education may find itself "doing school" in truly transformative ways.