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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Is Social Media Relevant? Take the Quiz

Before we talk social media, let's talk about the relevance of social media by taking a quiz. Which of the following is most likely to be true?

  • Should we teach letter-writing in the classroom? Kids need to write letters and mail them. But what if they become pen pals with strangers and share private information with them? What if their letter gets lost in the mail and the wrong person opens it? Are we opening up a whole dangerous world to our students once they mail letters to others? Surely students will send thousands of letters through the mail in their lifetime.
  • Should we teach email in the classroom? Kids need to email other people and should know how to title a subject. But what if they email someone bad? What if they accidentally send it to the wrong person? What will we do? And are we opening up a whole dangerous world to our students once they email others? Surely students will send thousands of emails in their lifetime.
  • Should we teach (dare we say it) social media in the classroom? I mean, they don't have to learn microblogging on Twitter -- you can do that in Edmodo, right? You can have a private blog or put them on Kidblogs or Edublogs instead of letting them post long status updates on Facebook, right? Are we opening up a whole dangerous world to our students once they are writing online and posting comments to each other? Surely students will post thousands of status updates, pictures, and blogs in their lifetime.

The Social Media Answer

  • ☑ There's one form of writing that can arguably get someone fired, hired or forced to retire faster than any other form of writing.
  • ☑ There's one form that will most likely be read by college admissions offices and teams of student "stalkers" hired to vet students before they receive scholarships.
  • ☑ There's one form that will prevent some people from running for political office and get others elected.

One form of writing is that powerful.

If you guessed social media, you're right.

The Social Media Myth

The myth about social media in the classroom is that if you use it, kids will be Tweeting, Facebooking and Snapchatting while you're trying to teach. We still have to focus on the task at hand. Don't mistake social media for socializing. They're different -- just as kids talking as they work in groups or talking while hanging out are different.

You don't even have to bring the most popular social media sites into your classroom. You can use Fakebook or FakeTweet as students work on this form of conversation. Edublogs, Kidblog, Edmodo, and more will let you use social media competencies and writing techniques. Some teachers are even doing "tweets" on post-it notes as exit tickets. You can use mainstream social media, too.

12 Ways Teachers are Using Social Media in the Classroom Right Now

  1. Tweet or post status updates as a class. Teacher Karen Lirenman lets students propose nuggets of learning that are posted for parents to read.
  2. Write blog posts about what students are learning. Teacher Kevin Jarrett blogs reflections about his Elementary STEM lab for parents to read each week.
  3. Let your students write for the world. Linda Yollis' students reflect about learning and classroom happenings.
  4. Connect to other classrooms through social media. Joli Barker is fearlessly connecting her classroom through a variety of media.
  5. Use Facebook to get feedback for your students' online science fair projects. Teacher Jamie Ewing is doing this now, as he shared recently.
  6. Use YouTube for your students to host a show or a podcast. Don Wettrick's students hosted the Focus Show online and now share their work on a podcast.
  7. Create Twitter accounts for a special interest projects. My student Morgan spent two years testing and researching the best apps for kids with autism (with the help of three "recruits"), and her work just won her an NCWIT Award for the State of Georgia.
  8. Ask questions to engage your students in authentic learning. Tom Barrett did this when his class studied probability by asking about the weather in various locations.
  9. Communicate with other classrooms. The Global Read Aloud, Global Classroom Project and Physics of the Future are three examples of how teachers use social media to connect their students as they collaborate and communicate.
  10. Create projects with other teachers. (Full disclosure: I co-created Physics of the Future with Aaron Maurer, a fellow educator I first met on Twitter.)
  11. Share your learning with the world. My students are creating an Encyclopedia of Learning Games with Dr. Lee Graham's grad students at the University of Alaska Southeast. The educators are testing the games, and the students are testing them, too.
  12. Further a cause that you care about. Mrs. Stadler's classes are working to save the rhinos in South Africa, and Angela Maiers has thousands of kids choosing to matter.

It's in the Standards

If you're going to ignore social media in the classroom, then throw out the ISTE Standards for Students and stop pretending that you're 21st century. Stop pretending that you're helping low-income children overcome the digital divide if you aren't going to teach them how to communicate online.

Social media is here. It's just another resource and doesn't have to be a distraction from learning objectives. Social media is another tool that you can use to make your classroom more engaging, relevant and culturally diverse.

Comments (24)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

David Velasco's picture

Yes, there is the issue of distraction. Many students will be browsing and honing their FB profiles, instead of listening to instruction. I think today's student will be less inclined to create an additional school profile to keep it separate from a personal one. Multiple profiles could be a breach of the agreement for FB, but people do it; I think it's just terribly labor intensive managing multiple accounts.

There are many solutions such as creating the class account, FB already offers this. Some of the tools of creating a page are different from a personal profile. Creating an online presence for class is a unique way to reach students. I can appreciate the online time stamps that can ensure "My dog ate my homework" is an excuse of the past. There's more robust flexibility for many users using FB or social networking. It's most intriguing how creative the uses can be. I wish I could be in HS going through this time again.

Cindy Friday Beeman's picture

We have blogging/keyboarding in a half-hour elective, 2 X a week, and it works great. I teach 4th through 6th grades in the elective. We use kidblog for a class blog, slimekids.com keyboarding games, and lessons on typingclub.com Some days I give them an assignment, and other days it's free choice. Common Core is pushing the need for keyboarding skills if only to handle typing full-sentence answers on the end-of-year test. I started with blogging, saw how sad the keyboarding was and added the gaming site, and then looked into the lessons of typingclub because games were not teaching hand position for maximum speed. All of these also can be accessed from home, and many students work on their blog at home or keyboarding at home. I am teaching social media skills during Comments of blogging. Also, bullying education has been layered on, and we discuss this. Not teaching these skills is a disservice in my opinion.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia
Facilitator

Great article. I'm always confused by this topic of 'Should we be doing...'. To my mind, the reality is that young people will engage with social media with or without our guidance - surely we want them to do so in a safe manner - and that means teaching social media.

Also, Cindy, I love the idea of a blogging elective!

Arynne's picture

I am one of those who is on the fence about social media in schools but after your article I am all in. As someone who is working towards a teaching license in K-12 Special Education I am so glad to have found this blog post and have such an extensive list of sites for classroom use. I have always been afraid of introducing social media site in a classroom due to the distraction factor. I was afraid that it would take away form the lesson for the sake of entertainment but your article and the examples of practical and useful social media in the classroom really made me rethink my position. I am well aware that potential employers and colleges are social media stalking potential candidates and I warn my own children of such things but had never thought of bringing such teachings into the 21st century classroom for the sake of students who do not have such access or guidance at home. Taking a practical approach to using social media for the benefit and learning of all students is definitely a way to build 21st century learners.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger

Wow, Arynne. This is so great to hear! This is one important reason we have to share best practices so we have some concrete examples of how it is being done well. As with anything, social media CAN be a distraction (just like paper -- i.e. airplanes) but as with anything, great teachers can harness the power and use it to teach. Thanks for sharing your transformation of thought. Great teachers are lead learners and you're modeling this when you're willing to say "Hmmm, I haven't thought of it that way, maybe I'll change my opinion and try something new." ;-) Thanks for sharing your learning journey in the comments, it really does help others.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger

Thanks for sharing this. Of course this is a tough one - I'm so glad you're teaching blogging. The one thing that makes me nervous is having computers teach typing - I teach typing too. This article isn't really on typing but in my experience I've found that 3 days a week minimum with 20-30 minutes of teacher supervised teaching is best, otherwise kids look at their fingers. Again, that is a side topic and perhaps one I should write about in another article. Thanks for sharing what you're doing - I've not heard of the slimekids website and need to look into that.
[quote]We have blogging/keyboarding in a half-hour elective, 2 X a week, and it works great. I teach 4th through 6th grades in the elective. We use kidblog for a class blog, slimekids.com keyboarding games, and lessons on typingclub.com Some days I give them an assignment, and other days it's free choice. Common Core is pushing the need for keyboarding skills if only to handle typing full-sentence answers on the end-of-year test. I started with blogging, saw how sad the keyboarding was and added the gaming site, and then looked into the lessons of typingclub because games were not teaching hand position for maximum speed. All of these also can be accessed from home, and many students work on their blog at home or keyboarding at home. I am teaching social media skills during Comments of blogging. Also, bullying education has been layered on, and we discuss this. Not teaching these skills is a disservice in my opinion.[/quote]

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger

Interesting thoughts here David. I don't know - there are some systems like Instructure Canvas who use Facebook to connect kids for learning, but honestly, except for having my students make a FAcebook page to promote topics they are passionate about, I believe that the nature of Facebook is less conducive to what I want to do in my classroom than Twitter and Instagram. The only one we block is Facebook here because as much as 25% of our traffic was Facebook and I knew it wasn't being used for school that much. I think the question is == "Is this being used in the pursuit of learning by our teachers" - if not, then it is a distraction.

Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher's picture
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
Computer Fundamentals, Computer Science and IT Integrator from Camilla, GA
Blogger

Hmmm - OK Jean - so usually when we're using Twitter, each has a project and they're scheduling their tweets using buffer. You have to use Twitter for a purpose and for us, it is usually promoting something we are doing as a class, so students will submit their tweet suggestions to the one student in charge via email and they handle scheduling. But if students are using Twitter in their genius projects, I can see every computer screen and can see what they are doing. It doesn't take a lot of time to schedule tweets.

I would say this, Jean, that if you look at the SAMR model -- Twitter's use in the classroom will actually redefine how we teach. It isn't one thing like "everyone do the worksheet and turn it in" or "everyone tweet and then turn it in." It doesn't really work that way.

Also, if you want EVERYONE microblogging in a safe place and are worried about having them on Twitter - use Edmodo - they can actually turn in assignments there and students can also interact. You may want to start somewhere else with microblogging and then just use Twitter yourself.

I also love the "Twitter weather" projects where the class tweets out and asks the weather and then plots it on a map. Just some ideas to show you how it is different. Thanks for asking this great questions - so many people have them but for some reason very few are as brave as you to ask them. Thanks, Jean. -- Vicki

Rafael Angel's picture
Rafael Angel
IB PYP MYP DP Spanish B and French B

Dear Vicki,
Thank you for sharing such good insights! And thank you everyone for such great contributions.
As I read the article, I couldn't help but remember the very first times I started flirting with the idea of social media in the classroom. You all must remember MSN groups. That was the first platform where I started, along with my students back then, to construct an interaction universe that would allow us to collaborate, receive, provide and act upon feedback, take part in debates, write opinions, ask questions, respond to requests, and formulate solutions for problems (http://rafangel.wordpress.com/2005/09/13/extranos-para-los-felices-habit...).
I like how the idea of socialising and being connected has acquired different nuances nowadays, and most importantly, I like how this has empowered language teachers who, like I, try to think of all possible scenarios where students can be a part of all kind of happenstance.

At present, helping students stay connected has allowed them to progress rapidly, to learn from others, to lose fear to operate in unfamiliar situations, and, most importantly for me, to teach me how I can optimise processes, for some of them clearly know more than I. This I respect, when students care so much about their learning that they suggest ways to do it better.

This is the universe where I work with my students in Spanish: http://rafangel.wordpress.com/e-colelingvo/

Gracias.

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