Social media has become second nature to today’s learners, so why not use it in the classroom?
Social Media in the Classroom
Today’s younger generation is hooked on social media. If given the choice between Tweeting or textbooks, which would students choose? Many teachers think that if they allow their students to use social media in the classroom, students will be posting status updates about how their day is going, which would only detract from educational experiences. However, social media can be a powerful educational tool that provides unique and dynamic learning experiences to students and teachers alike.
Social media are internet sites where people interact with one another. They provide a place for people across the world to share information and engage in discussions. Social media provides the means to share graphics, videos, and audio files. With a history dating back nearly 20 years, social media has become second nature to today’s students.
Why Use Social Media
Social learning theory says that students learn best when they learn from each other. Several studies have found that when students study together, they earn higher grades, are more engaged, and are more motivated. For that reason, teachers have incorporated group/team learning into their classrooms for decades. Today’s learners view social media as ‘cool,’ making it useful in providing social learning activities that are both educational and engaging. According to Dr. Richard J. Light of Harvard University’s School of Education, ‘This group learning format appeals to younger, socially conscious learners and is built around the notion that many minds are better than one.’
Social media platforms can help to increase communication skills and provide a ‘back door’ for shy learners. While many students struggle with speaking in front of their classmates, they may feel more comfortable ‘speaking’ on social media. This provides an outlet for students who are too intimidated to raise their hands in class. Furthermore, social media relies on the written word, making it an excellent means of improving writing skills.
Ideas for Implementing Social Media Into the Classroom
The opportunities for social media use are virtually endless. While there are many different social media platforms, most are very user-friendly and require little front-end work. Some ideas for implementing common social media platforms include:
Facebook and Twitter
- Teachers can provide bonus points for students who answer questions that are posted.
- Special interest groups can easily be created by using hashtags to collect information.
- Homework assignments can be posted to easily remind students to do their homework.
- Students can share online resources related to coursework.
- Teachers can facilitate online discussions about course material.
- Students can ask teachers questions about difficult course material.
- Teachers can post videos that explain how to navigate specific homework assignments.
- Students can create and post videos for one other to view rather than do in-class oral presentations.
- Students can share what they know with the world by hosting blogs and inviting other classrooms to see what they have learned.
- Students can reflect on what they have learned through blogs.
- Teachers can post blogs to keep parents ‘in the loop about what their child is learning.
- We can create Online discussion forums to discuss classroom topics.
- Students can participate in ‘scavenger hunts’ by snapping pictures of course-related items.
- Students can collaborate on papers and presentations using Google Docs and Google Slides.
- Google Hangouts can provide a way for students to video chat in groups.
A Word of Caution
While social media can be a valuable learning tool, it does have the potential to distract students. As such, social media can be used as a way to reinforce good behavior. For example, a teacher could allow students to use social media (for school purposes) only if everyone turns in their essays on time. On the other hand, taking away social media learning can be a punishment for bad behavior.
Teachers should also be sure to have their school’s support before integrating social media into their classroom. To gain school leadership’s support of social media, its use should be grounded in learning theory and should adhere to the school’s social media use policies.
All students may not have access to technology outside of school. For that reason, social media should be integrated into the classroom and not relied upon for completion of homework.
While bullying is a concern at all schools, cyberbullying is a concern related to social media. Teachers should keep a watchful eye for cyberbullying and discontinue the use of social media for students who engage in cyberbullying
If used properly, social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and blogs can add a new dynamic to today’s classroom. Most social media platforms are easy to use and free and allow users to be creative. Although social media can assist today’s learner, since social learning theory states that students learn best when they learn from each other, it should be used with caution and only used when it facilitates growth in student learning.