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. (If you don't believe me, read "How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life" in the New York Times.)
- ☑ 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
- Tweet or post status updates as a class. Teacher Karen Lirenman lets students propose nuggets of learning that are posted for parents to read.
- Write blog posts about what students are learning. Teacher Kevin Jarrett blogs reflections about his Elementary STEM lab for parents to read each week.
- Let your students write for the world. Linda Yollis' students reflect about learning and classroom happenings.
- Connect to other classrooms through social media. Joli Barker is fearlessly connecting her classroom through a variety of media.
- Use Facebook to get feedback for your students' online science fair projects. Teacher Jamie Ewing is doing this now, as he shared recently.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.