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How Educators Can Embrace Social Media & Engage Students

11 Aug 2014 by Lori Soard

There is a means of communication in today’s world that can cause people to get hired, fired, in an argument, or make an impact on the world faster than nearly anything else. That form of communication is social media. Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay and ignoring it won’t change the fact that is has a huge impact on students’ daily lives.

Internet-over-time-teens-adults

According to Pew Internet’s research on teens and the Internet, 95% of children between the ages of 12-17 are online. 81% of the teens who are online use social media and 77% use Facebook. Twitter is making gains, rising in usage by 16% in one year as teens flee Facebook, where their parents have taken up residence, and move over to new mediums such as Twitter and Instagram.

How to Use Social Media to Engage Students

There are many different ways you can utilize social media in your classroom without letting it take over and distract your students.

Fakebook and FakeTweet

Want to train your children about the effectiveness of social media without actually allowing them online? This is entirely possible thanks to classroom tools like Fakebook and Faketweet. You can train them in the basics of using social media, how to block the public from viewing their page and basic online manners from a safe environment. You can create posts and print them off for activities in the classroom as well.

Classroom Updates

Is your class studying something unique that might be beneficial to other classrooms across the country? Start a class Facebook page and come up with posts as a class, which the teacher posts. If you have a Smartboard in your classroom, you can load the page in real time and the students can work on the post until everyone is happy with it, calling out ideas and editing as you go. Once the post seems just right, you can click the “Post” button and the classroom will be communicating with the world in a matter of seconds.

Stay in Touch

Henryville Jr./Sr. High School science teacher Karen Albert utilizes Facebook to stay in touch with students and parents and keep them informed about what is going on in the classroom. “I use Facebook as a means to stay in touch with students and community members. I also use a Facebook page to communicate with kids going on our Splash into Science trip over spring break as well as their parents,” she shared. “The science page is set up with me as the administrator so I can put whatever restrictions on it that I want. I’ve kept it pretty open so that parents and relatives can also use it when needed…especially when we are on the trip. I post pics of the kids doing the activities for the families to see.”

For Reminders

Teachers are also using social media and texting to stay in touch with students and parents and remind them of important things. Robin Eldridge, a second grade teacher at Georgetown Elementary in southern Indiana, uses Remind.com to let parents know in short texts about important daily items in the classroom.

“A parent signs up for the reminders either via text messaging or their email. My parents all chose to receive these short messages via text. I would send out short reminders using this service. I would often send reminders when we had tests, deadlines for projects, or for library book returns. You are limited to a certain number of letters/spaces, so they can’t be long texts,” said Eldridge.

Teach Them to Share What They Learn

There are news stories about teachers all over the country who have begun to embrace social media by encouraging students to post about what they are learning as class is going on. For example, the New York Times reported that high school English teacher Erin Olsen of Sioux Rapids, Iowa allows her 11th graders to post to social media about their feelings on different poems and written material being studied in class.

Amazingly, this often engages other students not in the classroom, which helps to further the discussion and shows students what an impact their words have on others.

Bring in Guest Speakers from All Over the World

Use Skype to talk to world renowned scientists, historians and others who have something to add to the classroom discussion. This allows students to ask questions of the top experts in a given field and get immediate answers.

Edmodo Your Class

Edmodo allows teachers to set up a social media environment that is only open to those they designate. You can post updates, allow users to interact and discuss class assignments, or allow students to take a quiz online and save classroom time for other things.

Concerns over Social Media in the Classroom

Most educators have concerns over social media in the classroom, including the fear that students might abuse the privilege. Eldridge does limit how much her second graders use media in the classroom. “I try to limit some of the electronic stuff just because they get it at home and so many other places. I think the kids are just way too swamped with electronic stuff and sometimes the ‘old fashioned’ ways are good for them to experience.”

Albert also has been reluctant to bring social media directly into the classroom.  “I haven’t taken that step and I’m not sure I want to. It is too easy to have students use it inappropriately.”

These concerns are certainly valid, and each school and its teachers must decide what works best for their students. At the same time, most will agree that digital literacy has taken on a new importance and shouldn’t be overlooked. By engaging your students with the various forms of social media, you can open their eyes to new possibilities, such as discussing literature instead of the latest drama to hit the school. It’s all a matter of finding the right balance between too much social media and just the right amount to engage students in learning.

 

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