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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Feeling outdated, not connected, or even totally lost in the digital age? Well, let me assure you, droning on and on about grammatical structures is a surefire way to quickly lose student interest in the world language classroom. Instead, embrace something which truly interests the millennial student: social media. Utilizing it in the classroom will give your students practical, engaging ways to communicate in the language you teach. The 21st century learner is not wired to memorize; instead, her or she is inclined to create, connect and collaborate. Social media is the perfect medium for us, their teachers, to reach them.

Here are ten ideas to get you started on your journey toward not becoming the classroom dinosaur you have always feared becoming.

1. Blogging

Blogging is a wonderful way to keep your students connected, even when they are no longer in class. There are a plethora of ways to use blogs in education, but the simplest way to get started is by posting a weekly question and having students respond -- once to your question by Wednesday, and once to someone else's response by Friday. You might even consider allowing students to provide the weekly questions. This is the perfect example of interpersonal writing practice. Check out my AP Spanish blog for ideas on where to begin. I recommend Edublogs for starting your class blog.

2. Twitter

Micro-blogging via Twitter is another way to link students outside of class. Let's be honest -- there are not many young people out there who do not already tweet. You can use Twitter in class in a similar fashion to blogging. If you do, I strongly suggest that you use TweetDeck to efficiently manage your students' tweets. I also love having students tweet a story. You start by tweeting the first line of the story based on the unit you are studying. As students participate at different times during the day, they will need to read all the previous tweets before adding to the story. Require them to add to the narrative more than once. I can assure you that reading them the next day in class will be a riot! This is another great example of interpersonal writing practice.

3. Instagram

Photo sharing a Spanish word of the day via Instagram has become an activity that my students truly enjoy. First, require that they "follow" you on Instagram. Each school day, take a picture of something that would never likely appear on a unit vocabulary list, and try to include a student in the photo for fun. I use the app Aviary to add the vocabulary word in the form of a meme. Require that they turn in sentences using these words at the end of each week.

4. Video

Video sharing via YouTube and Vimeo allows students to publish their work. The actual creation of a movie or video motivates students to learn how to plan, organize, analyze, edit, write and present. Once they finish their masterpieces, encourage them to share their work with the world via a site such as YouTube. Also, make time to watch them in class.

5. SlideShare

Presentation sharing via SlideShare is a great mode for having students search, create, modify and share presentations with the world. It's like YouTube except that you're sharing and viewing presentations instead of videos.

6. Google Drive

Requiring collaborative work through Google Drive, a file-sharing and editing site, makes group work simple. The site allows students to work on an assignment together outside of school. A "revision history" tab even allows you to see who contributed what. At the start of a unit, have students create the vocabulary list by sharing a document with them that includes the unit theme and related topics. Then ask them to contribute a certain number of words to the list. Google Drive makes this process a cinch!

7. Collaborative Editing

The use of collaborative editing via Google Drive makes peer and teacher revisions incredibly easy. The comments feature on any shared document allows you and your students to point out errors and make suggestions in an uncomplicated fashion.

8. Facebook

Social networking via Facebook is always a fan favorite. It's as simple as creating a group page for your class, having them "like" it, and posting questions for them to answer and debate. This is also usually the easiest way to get in touch with them outside of class.

9. Duolingo

It is time to officially gamify education. If we make it fun through gaming, our students will be engaged. For language teachers, Duolingo is the route to student involvement when it comes to reviewing grammatical structures. Available in many languages, this app allows students to compete with one another and "level up."

10. Polling

Polling via popular “free” sites such as Poll Everywhere, SurveyMonkey and Strutta can make your class interactive. Choose one of the sites mentioned, make a survey around a theme you are studying, and then allow students to text in their answers. It's a great way to create spontaneous interpersonal speaking practice in class, especially if you include fun images in the survey.

How have you engaged your world language classes through social media? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

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