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Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas

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Although students are evermore connected to the social web, many of these networks remain out-of-class digital playgrounds where students congregate. In a 2014 survey of 1,000 teachers, just one in five said they use social media regularly with students.

Of course, it can be a challenge to incorporate social media into lessons. There are many gray areas for teachers to navigate, like setting guidelines, accessibility at school, and student safety. But to help teachers navigate this ever-changing landscape of social media tools, here are some of the best guides on the web for four popular networks, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

More Great Reads From Edutopia

In addition to those great guides, there is a lot of useful information right here on Edutopia. You can explore all things related to the subject on Edutopia's social media page; here are a few of the more popular, recent posts:

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Ralph Grant's picture
Ralph Grant
Tech consulltant, CSViamonde

Would you suggest having a separate facebook account just for classroom use?

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Ralph!

I would always recommend a Facebook group or a Class page, or other Facebook account for school/classroom use. First and foremost, you don;t necessarily want your kids and all your adult friends always sharing the same information; secondarily, I think it makes some parents more comfortable with the idea of Facebook being used for educational purposes, if there's a line between professionalism and personal lives, especially where adults and students interact.
Ive seen some parents of middle schoolers getting a little bent out of shape when teachers have had kids create Facebook pages for historical figures before, saying that it is like giving the kids a licence to use social media, whether they allow it at home or not; I've looked at it a an opportunity to instruct those kids about constructive ways to use social media before they engage with it personally, so that is something to consider as well- as long as kids are aware of digital citizenship rules and guidelines, it should be ok.

Ralph Grant's picture
Ralph Grant
Tech consulltant, CSViamonde

Thank you for the advice, Whitney! I definitely agree with the idea of a group, especially a closed one since it allows a more secure environment than a page. When dealing with parents who are already a little nervous about allowing their children to use social media, it is always better to err on the side of caution. I also like the fact that the settings for comments can be used to approve content before it is posted for all to see.
I will definitely advise teachers to create a "work" account. I think you're right about keeping your personal life private. I also think it might encourage more teachers to participate in social media activities with their classes knowing that their personal information will not be shared.
Thanks again!!!

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
K-4 Technology Facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey

Great advice in this thread already but I'll add that if you have not checked out Edmodo.com you should - basically a private "Facebook clone" that can do much of the same things but giving you the teacher a ton of control including the ability to make it fully private. Free, too. Hope it helps (even though using FB is arguably more authentic.)

-kj-

aysun güneş's picture

A great source for people like us, who are still learning about the use of social media in the classroom settings and use of it as teachers. Thanks for the compilation of the web sites ;)

Bryan Yarrington's picture

These are some great resources for using social media in the classroom! Thank you so much for sharing! The digital native populations in the classroom truly do respond to social media and web use, increasing engagement and making classroom learning relevant and applicable. However, the regular use of social media is an opportunity that educators need to utilize not only to engage students but also to teach them digital literacy and citizenship. In a collaborative report titled "Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media" (2012), CoSN makes excellent points about the importance of using social media in the classroom. The report states that one of the most powerful reasons to permit the use of social media and mobile devices in the classroom is "to provide an opportunity for students to learn about their use in a supervised environment that emphasizes the development of attitudes and skills that will help keep them safe outside of school." Using social media is a way to present information as well as practice for students navigating the overwhelming range of resources available to them. In this way they can become responsible web 2.0 users and begin to understand how permanent the posting of personal information can be. Issues of privacy, acceptable use, and safety can all be dealt with in the classroom as a learning experience for both teachers and students. Gaining experience with social media in a school setting can instill appropriate habits of use for young people that will continue in their future.

You can find the CoSN report here:
http://www.cosn.org/sites/default/files/pdf/MakingProgress_Web%20-Final.pdf

Ivy Gastelum's picture

I teach high school in a low-income area where many students do not have computers at home. However, many of them have smart phones and regularly monitor their Instagram and Facebook accounts. I have maintained, monitored and participated in an AP English Literature Facebook page for five years, and find that the students readily follow my digital citizenship guidelines while assisting each other on assignments, posting links on everything from biblical allusions to scholarship opportunities. I also log on nightly to answer questions and to provide feedback. It has been an incredibly valuable learning tool, especially for the students who do not have computers at home.
I want to create one for my general-program tenth graders, but my principal feels that they may not have the maturity to follow the rules, or that I may receive a backlash from parents who don't recognize a connection between learning and social media. We also have a "no electronics in the classroom" rule at our site. Does anyone have any suggestions for me to assuage my principal's fears about parents and general-program students? Thanks!

(1)
Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Ivy! I think communicating with kids and modelling good behavior in social media through practice is one of the best ways to instill these values in kids- We can talk to them all day long about the virtues of being good digital citizens, but putting it into action is where it counts. I also think helping kids use social for things like skype study sessions, or Facebook study groups shows there's more ways to use platforms other than as billboards for the latest (fill in the blank)- nicely done!
I think there's always a tendency to underestimate kids, and to assume the worst rather than hope for the best. While I would be open and honest with a note to parents about what you are trying to do, and perhaps start out by making it an optional versus mandatory participation (extra credit, or something, perhaps) I would ask your administrator to let you give it a try for a set period of time, and then you can evaluate the success or failure, as it might be. But also help the kids understand that the ability to use this depends on their responsibility- and more often than not, kids will step up and be more responsible and responsive than not. As long as you and the administrator can agree in advance what constitutes a "code red" violation where you might have to shut it down, then the ability to experiment and give it a try should be a- ok. I often find if I approach things as a "I'd like to try this, here are the reasons, and what I hope to accomplish; these are the benchmarks for success (or lack of success)- I'd like to give it a whirl and see if we can make a difference- hopefully they will appreciate how well thought out the program is, and green light it. And to be honest- all kids need to learn how to be good and responsible digital citizens, regardless of their track in school.

(2)
Ivy Gastelum's picture

Whitney,
Thank you so much for the tips in dealing with my administration. You are so right--it's best to go in with a game plan, a list of potential benefits, and possible solutions for negative scenarios. I feel empowered now.

(1)
Elizabeth Thornton's picture

I believe that these links could be beneficial to my school. We have been covering social networking this week as a tool for the business world and how to use them. After reviewing my school's own social media sites and how they are being managed, I realized that they could be reaching students, staff, and the community in a more effective way. Our sites are not engaging or appealing in any way. I think these tutorials are a great way to introduce to them some key points that they are missing out on.

Ivy Gastelum's picture

Whitney,
Thank you so much for the tips in dealing with my administration. You are so right--it's best to go in with a game plan, a list of potential benefits, and possible solutions for negative scenarios. I feel empowered now.

(1)
Ivy Gastelum's picture

I teach high school in a low-income area where many students do not have computers at home. However, many of them have smart phones and regularly monitor their Instagram and Facebook accounts. I have maintained, monitored and participated in an AP English Literature Facebook page for five years, and find that the students readily follow my digital citizenship guidelines while assisting each other on assignments, posting links on everything from biblical allusions to scholarship opportunities. I also log on nightly to answer questions and to provide feedback. It has been an incredibly valuable learning tool, especially for the students who do not have computers at home.
I want to create one for my general-program tenth graders, but my principal feels that they may not have the maturity to follow the rules, or that I may receive a backlash from parents who don't recognize a connection between learning and social media. We also have a "no electronics in the classroom" rule at our site. Does anyone have any suggestions for me to assuage my principal's fears about parents and general-program students? Thanks!

(1)
Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Hi Ivy! I think communicating with kids and modelling good behavior in social media through practice is one of the best ways to instill these values in kids- We can talk to them all day long about the virtues of being good digital citizens, but putting it into action is where it counts. I also think helping kids use social for things like skype study sessions, or Facebook study groups shows there's more ways to use platforms other than as billboards for the latest (fill in the blank)- nicely done!
I think there's always a tendency to underestimate kids, and to assume the worst rather than hope for the best. While I would be open and honest with a note to parents about what you are trying to do, and perhaps start out by making it an optional versus mandatory participation (extra credit, or something, perhaps) I would ask your administrator to let you give it a try for a set period of time, and then you can evaluate the success or failure, as it might be. But also help the kids understand that the ability to use this depends on their responsibility- and more often than not, kids will step up and be more responsible and responsive than not. As long as you and the administrator can agree in advance what constitutes a "code red" violation where you might have to shut it down, then the ability to experiment and give it a try should be a- ok. I often find if I approach things as a "I'd like to try this, here are the reasons, and what I hope to accomplish; these are the benchmarks for success (or lack of success)- I'd like to give it a whirl and see if we can make a difference- hopefully they will appreciate how well thought out the program is, and green light it. And to be honest- all kids need to learn how to be good and responsible digital citizens, regardless of their track in school.

(2)

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