Technology has undeniably and profoundly expanded access to education in many ways. For one thing, classroom walls have dissolved in the wake of these advancements providing new ways of learning. With classroom social media, a new age of education is dawning and teachers can be a catalyst for educational change.
The use of classroom social media allows students to communicate and collaborate with other students studying or researching the same topic or lesson material.
With this freedom, students tend to take more responsibility for their own learning.
Social media use in the classroom can require a great deal of time and effort on a teacher’s part.
Nevertheless, many teachers feel that engaging and enhancing learning with social media is at the core of teaching students to succeed in our sophisticated digital society. What better way to prepare students for collaborative discussions and team projects than by utilizing social media in the classroom setting?
Classroom Social Media: The UPS and Downs
While many teachers acknowledge the benefits of social media in educational settings, they're quick to mention the drawbacks as well. The idea of using social media seems to make many educators a little nervous.
Without proper supervision and regulation, social media can be an added distraction in the classroom.
Teachers already need to have eyes in the back of their heads. Add a digital device and social media to the equation, and the need for supervision increases.
Remember also that
when social media is introduced into a lesson, that lesson is no longer confined to the classroom.
As such, teachers need to be aware of and know the signs of potential threats, such as cyberbullying. Without proper balance, its use can have negative effects on the social skills that many children are lacking already. Another pitfall to be aware of is that when asking students to bring in their devices from home, the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ are exposed and displayed in the classroom.
Despite these drawbacks, introducing social media in the classroom can offer fascinating learning opportunities when implemented properly.
When students are taught how to use it responsibly in class, it allows so many new and interesting ways to learn.
Slowly introducing social media will help students view its use as a tool that can benefit them both socially and academically now and in the future.
Have Students Start a Blog
One fairly simple way to get started can be through blogging. Chances are that every student is given a writing assignment to complete. What better way to motivate students to be better and stronger writers than by giving them an audience? Blogging is a perfect opportunity for students to share ideas and opinions while awakening their passions. In addition, by requiring students to provide meaningful feedback to other’s blog posts, you can engage them while improving communication and collaboration skills.
Have Students Set up Social Media Accounts
Many teachers have found social networking to be an exceptional opportunity for diverse groups of students to connect and share opinions, experiences, and knowledge with others. One social media tool used to encourage this is by having students set up a Twitter account with a class hashtag. The hashtag serves to remind students about the purpose of their posts and it identifies the classroom.
Twitter lets students tweet about a topic and discuss interesting facts and questions or share photos with other students. Classes have even had Twitter competitions to encourage participation. For example, a science class may challenge a global issues class to do a tweet-off, seeing who could get the most followers.
Twitter can also be used in plenty of other ways as a classroom social media tool. You can explore dozens of ideas for how to use Twitter with this free Twitter classroom guide.
Scoop.it is another great tool for educators and students. It is very flexible and incorporates many of the elements of other familiar social media tools, making it very user-friendly. The site helps users connect with the latest online articles on topics of interest in a magazine format. Users can share the content with other users to promote discussion.
Scoop.it also allows educators to use it as a resource list so classrooms can work together to publish information on a topic. This is a great tool to encourage quality discussions and allows guided discussions by the students themselves.
One of the best brainstorming tools available is Pinterest. Teachers use it, cooks, crafters, and home interior designers use it, so why shouldn’t students? The site can be used in so many different ways and is very user-friendly. Students can search by topic and instantly find inspiration and information about their topic of interest. This is great for visual projects, science experiments, and research projects.
For example, if students are researching the history of the feminist movement, they can pin photos, YouTube videos, and speech presentations on a Pinterest board and then present their research project while having everything neatly organized. In this way, using Pinterest encourages modern research skills and fosters digital literacy.
Create Online Portfolios
Another great idea is to have digital student portfolios for students to display their best work. This is also another great use for Pinterest. It can be set up individually or as a classroom. At the end of the year, a classroom's best work can be displayed. If done individually, older students can use the board as a resource for a digital resume. For group projects, a pinboard can be an easy method for everyone to contribute at school or while at home. Don’t underestimate the power of pinboards to inspire and encourage learning among students.
Flickr is a popular tool used to create content for others. It allows students to create digital stories or share photos and more. Schools often use Flickr as a way to share information and events on a school's website or blog. Artwork, drama, photos, and music are a few things often shared to inspire, build enthusiasm, and support for various, clubs, activities, and events.
Teachers often use Flickr as a bridge between a field trip and the classroom. By recording the events of the field trip and then having them appear in a photostream, it provides great classroom discussion regarding what the class experienced and any questions that were unanswered while on the trip.
Skype can be set up for classroom “playdates” and the idea is growing in popularity. Once thought of as a tool to connect friends and families, Skype is now being used to connect classrooms all over the world.
Educators can connect with other educators based on what they teach and what projects they are interested in doing. Mystery Skype can be used as an educational game between two classrooms somewhere in the world. Students try to guess the location of the other class geographically by asking yes/no-formatted questions. Skype is also great for inviting guest speakers to speak to a class, or as a tool to take virtual field trips.
The possibilities are endless when incorporating Skype in the classroom. It is a social media tool that can be introduced to both younger and older students.
Use Dipity or Tiki-Toki
For history teachers, Dipity or Tiki-Toki are great timeline platforms that can be used to generate discussions. Other subjects can make use of the platforms as well. For example, science projects that involve the cloning debate could use Dipity or Tiki-Toki, to create a timeline representing the evolution of the discussion of cloning throughout history.
While these are just a few, so many other platforms available can be incorporated in the classroom for learning. Many students are most likely already using many of those mentioned above, which makes an easy transition for both the student and teacher.
While safety and privacy are relevant concerns, more and more teachers are realizing the benefits and learning opportunities available when using classroom social media. For many teachers, moving past the fear and embracing it has been a welcomed change in the classroom. Some of the heaviest users of technology devices and social media are young students, and social media offers educators a great opportunity to expand young minds and explore topics like never before.