Social media is everywhere. You cannot ignore it in everyday life. You cannot ignore it in classrooms. Many schools across America and the rest of the “smart” world have recognized this. For all its associated issues (like cyber bullying), teachers are trying to make use of social media to reach out to students and increase participation.
Social media in schools is becoming a natural part of life. Teachers include it in lessons. Teens are catching the latest school news through it. Parents of elementary kids are kept in the loop through Twitter and Facebook announcements.
Social media is easy to use. Today’s kids are already using it for their social lives. It is a significant resource for education that is waiting to be tapped, and it should be, for a good reason. Social media in schools limit cultural divides.
One critical aspect of the use of social media, in schools is that it breaks down cultural barriers. A classroom is closed. Discussions and paradigms are limited to those present. In modern multicultural classrooms, it is easy for some students to feel left out because instructors may not be sensitive to their culture.
When the class goes online in any form through social media, these cultural barriers between students and teachers are elevated. There is bound to be more participation from students who are quiet and shy in class because they feel marginalized. Teachers often find that their most silent student in the class is the loudest on social media.
An online classroom also invites discussions from those outside the class. Students from other cultures and communities with different perspectives and experiences weigh in. Overall, social media may be able to help kids engage in productive discussions without being influenced by perceptions of “otherness” that cultural diversity, unfortunately, tends to create.
Social media in schools builds communities Whether it is the teacher and student, or the administration and the parent, there is no doubt that social media can build a community. Parents want to be more involved in the lives of their kids, but they may not have the time. Social media is the easiest tool to keep parents in the know.
Plus, you cannot keep kids off the grid for very long these days. Young people are already engaging with social tools from iPad to Instagram. So, schools are making use of social media’s community-building features to keep kids engaged and motivated.
Moreover, many teachers who have brought social media to the classroom will say that it is working. Some are more cautious, afraid that it is all too possible for social media to be misused both outside and in the classroom.
In some cases, teachers think the kids may be resistant to it. What do the kids think about social media in the classroom? It is not so easy to answer this question. It is to be presumed that teens who are already bored in the classroom are not going to be wooed by their teacher’s best efforts to create a discussion forum on Facebook.
Such kids may want to keep social media in the realm of social. On the flip side, students who are genuinely interested in class say that their best teachers are those who create a chat group to discuss a book they read that week, for example. Then there’s the moral question.
Kids are already addicted to technology. They already spend quite a lot of their waking hours glued to Instagram and sending (sometimes irresponsibly) Snapchat messages. This obsession is limiting students to their immediate social circle.
Social media may be creating the kind of insular bubble that prevents kids from being aware of anything beyond their immediate circle. So they spend more time on what is already familiar to them and pick up on nothing outside their interest. Is it right to feed their self-absorption?
How many kids are today willing to listen to the opinions and views of others, besides wanting to make their voices heard? The solution is to make limited use of social media in the classroom. Thrusting it down students’ throats in every classroom scenario may lead to less participation than before.
Some teachers have successfully integrated social media in the classroom, and seen a gratifying increase in student participation. It is great to learn best practices from them. Also, there are rules to be kept in mind, regarding social media use by teachers.
Rules for teachers on social media. It has become necessary for teachers to follow some informal social media rules when it comes to interactions with students. This is to avoid scenarios that led to many teachers being ousted over Instagram photos, tweets and status updates.
(1) Do not follow’ or friend’ students on your personal social media account. Take steps to block students from your own Twitter and Facebook. Keep your Instagram private, so that only accounts that you approve will be able to follow you.
There was a case in 2015 of a Utah teacher who was nearly fired over posts of her bodybuilding competitions and training when parents of her students disapproved of her posts. Other teachers have lost their jobs because of their social media posts, sometimes unknowingly, flouted school policy.
(2) Vet your profile picture. Does it contain drugs, alcohol, anything that can be mistaken for a gang sign? Even a peace sign can be misconstrued as a gang symbol. Replace these profile pictures with unambiguous, clean pictures. Teachers should remember that profile pictures in locked accounts also show up on search engines. Teachers today have a responsibility to tweet or post responsibly.
These are new expectations and roles that teachers have to adapt to since the Internet and social networking. School e-safety policies will usually advise teachers to ensure that all online activity will not bring their roles as teachers into disrepute. This means that post of a Saturday night drinking session (since even teachers have private lives) belongs in your private Instagram and not your public Facebook feed.
(3) Learn the social media guidelines for employees that are laid down by your school, county and state. Your school may already have rules in place about profile pictures, status updates etc. Interactions between teachers and pupils outside the classroom are fraught with dangers.
Some schools may have e-safety guidelines of no social networks for communication between educators and students. There is usually no law that can enforce such rules. So if teachers are careful with their use of social media, they may be able to get away with it productively.
(4) Posting photos of students on social media is a strict NO. It is up to the parent to decide whether or not their child’s picture can be posted online.
(5) It is best not to affiliate yourself with your school on your personal social media profile. Don’t list your employment or “ABC County School”! It is also wise not to mention your school on any post since these can show up on online searches.
(6) Don’t geo-tag your posts with your school location, as they can easily crop up on your students’ social media feed. Ideas for engaging students with social media Teachers who are new to the concept of using social media can learn from their peers about what works and what doesn’t.
The following are some tried and tested areas of engagement. Lessons on responsible use With kids spending so much time on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and their other preferences, there’s a whole new area of their lives that needs attention from parents and teachers.
It is not enough for educators to teach lessons and how to be a productive member of society. Students must be taught how to be good digital citizens as well. This means encouraging them to use social media responsibly, and not share every thought without a filter.
It also means teaching kids that the rules that apply in the classroom apply in the digital world as well – the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (CSRIU) has created handouts (for free) by grade level to teach kids how to be cyber safe and avoid cyber bullying. Teachers can use these as starting points for their lessons.
Communication With Parents:
Many teachers have been using social media effectively to keep in touch with the parents. Creating a Facebook class page is a good first step. The page can be used to make announcements about class activities, assignment deadlines, etc. Parents can use the page to see what kids are doing. Twitter is also a great tool for teachers to communicate with parents privately.
Set up a Twitter channel for your classroom and you can send kids updates about homework and classroom activities. Tweets can get lost in the feed if there are many active accounts that the kids are following. To prevent that, teachers can use a particular hashtag to make it easy to filter the relevant posts.
Encouraging social sharing of work University educators have been using social media very successfully to encourage students to share their assignment through their preferred social media platform. For example, a Penn State University professor created an iTunes U class called Art 10: Introduction to Visual Studies. This went on to become a massive online course, the Introduction to Art MOOC.
The professor encouraged students (the number grew to 58,000 eventually) to share their artwork and evaluate each others’ work. Students used a variety of social media like Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter to post their assignment, along with a unique tag.
The course was online, and so they communicated through social media. Even after the course was long over, students continued to post on the online forums. This is an example of the practical use of social media in educational institutions. There are hundreds of other real world examples that can inspire teachers to use social media in innovative ways to engage students.
Guest Speaker on Skype Social media in schools has made it easy for teachers to invite guest speakers without the inconvenience of travel. Many teachers use Skype to present speeches by guest speakers. Uploaded YouTube videos and videos on Facebook can also be used to save guest speaker lectures for other students that were unable to log in for the live session.
Many teachers also encourage students to engage with guest speakers through a Twitter hashtag. Students can live-tweet the lecture with a relevant hashtag, which is particularly useful if the class is large. Students can also be encouraged to tweet important questions for the speaker, during the speech.
This helps to avoid interruptions of the speech and also engages those outside the classroom community to bring in their perspectives and interact. Encouraging students to reach out to original sources LinkedIn has opened up possibilities of communicating with industry experts. Students in professional fields like journalism, for example, can be encouraged to reach out to original sources directly through platforms like LinkedIn.
Setting Up a Class Blog:
Contrary to what many people think, blogging is not outdated. Many teachers, like Mrs. Yollis of Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog, set up blogs where students are encouraged to write about classroom happenings and learning. The class blog can also be used to communicate class news with parents and students, or post announcements.
Teachers blogging about their subject can open up a topic for discussion and debate among students. Teachers may also create a shared blog set up where students can contribute under their profiles and share their thoughts about a particular subject.
One of the many benefits of blogging about coursework is that it is more engaging than just reading a textbook. It is different from writing an essay, which will only be read by the teacher. A blog post is open for everyone to see and encourages discussion. Many students, who may be quiet and shy in class, may blossom and participate in blogs.
These ideas can get teachers started with the integration of social media in schools. Whether you like it or hate it, social media is here to stay. That and the Internet are changing expectations and roles for everyone, and teachers are learning to adapt.
It is wise for school staff to learn to use social media in the classroom, if not to interact with students and share resources, then at least to keep parents, teachers, and students on the same page. At the same time, teachers must remember that social media can be a distraction, cyber bullying is a reality though it is impersonal, and the student-teacher divide is imperative to maintain.