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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

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Facilitator 2014
Staff

Jeri, this is a brilliant idea. Thank you for sharing it!

Sam Rubenstein's picture
Sam Rubenstein
High School English teacher from Brooklyn, NY

I would love to use social media like you and many other teachers have, but what do you do about firewalls and students who will use social media to bully others? My students haven't done anything like that, but there's always the fear of getting in trouble because one kid can't control their impulses and posts something offensive on another wall, or something gang-related or instigating a fight?

As for firewalls, a lot of the social media sites the kids want to use are blocked. What do you in that situation?

RHHSJBJones's picture

If bullying occurs use it as a teachable moment with explanation of consequences and then do them.

Rob Currin's picture
Rob Currin
High School English Teacher, Coach, Student

Fictional twitter accounts! I just wanted to share something that I have really gotten a kick out of recently. I started a Twitter account for Holden Caulfield @_therealholden_ and "Holden" tweets updates that center on our reading of The Catcher in the Rye. Students can interact and the whole thing has been a lot of fun.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

Hi Sam! I think there are a couple of different issues here. Bullying is bullying, period, and your school is legally required to have policies in place to deal with it. The larger issue has to do with school culture and classroom climate as well as being very clear about what quality digital citizenship looks like and sounds like. It requires direct instruction and conversation, analysis of other conversations pulled down from other sites (just hit the comments section on Huffpost for some awesome counter- examples of that!), and conversations (like #edchat) that you view and discuss together as a class.

Last, the conversation around firewalls and social media sites is one that has to be had at a higher level in the administrative food chain, I'd think. If you can make the case that you need to have them unblocked for sound pedagogical reasons, I think you'll have a better chance of getting them unblocked.

Michelle Luhtala at bibliotech.me has a lot of good thinking on this subject. You can follow her @mluhtala

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Facilitator 2014
Staff

@Rob, I love the fictional Twitter account idea. These kinds of things really make the characters come alive.

Do you see what Jeri's comment below? She had her class take fictional roles from Antigone and play them out on Facebook. Talk about having to demonstrate an understanding of the story and the characters!

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
K-5 Instructional Technology Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Sam,
Whether it's under your auspices or not, students are already using social media to communicate. It's my honest opinion that we should be using age-appropriate social media tools with students at all grade levels so that we can drive the conversation about how to be good digital citizens. Digital Citizenship is an important part of my curriculum. kids make mistakes and do things they shouldn't, but it's a lot easier to have a meaningful, learning-focused conversation with them if they make the mistakes when you've already talked about these issues.

The worst-case scenarios you bring up aren't going to happen or not happen because of the tools you use in your classroom. They're going to happen or not happen based on the tone you set with your students as to the kind of people they need to be whether they're online or off.

Lemlem's picture

Social media has been playing a greater role in our daily life. When it comes to the field of education, there are a lot of ways that social networks such as twitter and facebook can be used to enhance the teaching and learning environment and increase educational relevance. Students use social media everyday to communicate and gather information about various topics. So all in all social media is relevant to enrich classroom experience by connecting students with peers around the globe.

Renee T's picture
Renee T
#DSMsum14

Hi Vicki,
I feel lucky that I've had the chance to listen to you in person at last year's TIC in Dubuque, IA. I was reading this article for my Digital and Social Media class (this week we are looking at blogs and Twitter) and I agree with many of your statements. I especially connected with the parts about if we ignore SM, kids won't do it. Well, guess what, they're already snapchatting, tweeting and the like in class.

Dave Chaffey's picture
Dave Chaffey
Just a good bloke taking a look around :-)

Great article. I guess I see the challenges in education, but I have to question whether its not, perhaps, overstated? A lot of what I've read recently is tending towards a movement away from social. Two articles worth looking at are http://personalweb.about.com/od/facebookculture/a/Kids-Facebook.htm and http://www.kbbdigital.com.au/news/764-social-media-over-hyped-fad-or-eme... .Perhaps its not going to be the be all and end all. Just the next yo-yo or hula hoop fad... :-)

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