As of September 2015, 87 percent of teachers surveyed by Harris Poll don’t use social media in the classroom. However, many educators find social media to be a helpful tool in learning:
“I have found the quietest students in my class speak the loudest on social media.” –Gail Leicht, 8th grade Language Arts/Literature teacher
“I apply social media in my classroom to help students view it as something that can–and will–influence their academic and professional life, hence the value of its responsible and ethical use.” – Micahel-Ann, Senior School history teacher
However, for many educators, a lack of training and knowledge in how to use social media for learning causes them to refrain. Others are nervous about the privacy concerns and giving students access to sites that can be very non-kid-friendly.
Luckily, you don’t have to bring these sites directly into your classroom—at least not completely. If the Twitterverse is just too big and uncertain for you, use these tips to still reap the benefits.
Use it to Connect Outside the Classroom
One of the greatest benefits of social media in education is that it allows teachers to reach their students outside the four walls of the classroom. Rather than using social media during the school day, you can use it as a means to connect with students after the bell rings. Here are a few ways to make the most of this:
Private Facebook group: Create a private Facebook group for your classroom. Use this to share important resources, reminders and tips with students. Class-wide Pinterest account: Create a Pinterest account for your classroom, creating boards for each specific lesson, unit, book, etc. Post resources to these boards, and send students there if they’re looking for a specific article or piece of information.
Instagram updates: One teacher, Nicole Long, uses Instagram to share student accolades. Being a photo-driven platform, she shares pictures of the projects they do, which is exciting for the student being recognized.
Use it for Specific Projects
Instead of bringing social media into the classroom on a regular basis, turn to it for smaller projects, perhaps once a month or once a quarter. There are many ways students can use these social sites as tools to learn more, organize their knowledge, and put classroom lessons into real-world context. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Facebook historical profile: Assign each student with a historical character to research. After compiling information, students then have to create a Facebook account for that person, using photos from online and the information they’ve gathered. They’ll love using Facebook in this context and get to see learning applied in a real-world environment.
Emoji poetry: Assign each student a poem and ask them to sum it up with just emojis—you can do this on Twitter or in a private Facebook group. They’ll have a blast getting creative while having to truly understand the poem to find the right emojis to represent it.
Pinterest project planning: Give each student a Pinterest account to use as an organizational tool. Students can create boards for specific topics or pieces of their project and easily add resources, images, videos and more. Because Pinterest is a very creative-focused social site, your students may even be inspired to create something they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.
Hashtag discussion: Twitter is a great way to get students talking outside of class. Bring one homework assignment a week onto Twitter. Create a hashtag (i.e. #MrsSmithScience) and give students a topic to discuss. You can follow the conversation to see who’s participating and who’s not; you can also join theconversation, tagging students and answering questions.
Instagram photo gallery: Assign students a research project that culminates in a gallery of photos on Instagram. This can be art-specific, more abstract, or tackle topics like digital citizenship or politics. This type of assignment forces students to think about the subject in a different way—how do I depict this information in the form of photos?
Use Tools With Social Features
One of the benefits of social media in the classroom is both the excitement and collaboration it sparks among students. There are a variety of organizations that harness this, making these social features kid-friendly, and building them into their app or learning tool. Here are a few that will help you ease into social media in your classroom:
Bookopolis: This website allows students to connect with other students, share book reviews, and get reading recommendations from their peers. It’s a powerful way to help students discover the books they love.
Twiducate: This is a Twitter-like environment that encourages collaboration among students. Students don’t need an email address or their own Twitter handle—when you sign up, you get a code, and they log in with that.
Whooo’s Reading: This reading log tool encourages student collaboration with a Facebook-style newsfeed—in fact, many students call it “Facebook for reading.” Within their private (class-wide only) newsfeed, they can “like” what their peers’ are reading and comment on comprehension responses.
Social media can be a valuable tool in the learning environment, and you don’t need to be live-Tweeting your lesson to take advantage. Consider how you can reap the benefits of social media without developing every lesson or discussion around it.
Bio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Whooo’s Reading, a San Diego-based education organization that motivates students to read more every day.It’s available to teachers, schools and districts. Jessica grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their new ebook, How to Bring Technology Into the Classroom, just $2.99 on Amazon.com.