George Lucas Educational Foundation

Taking the Plunge with Social Media in the Classroom

Taking the Plunge with Social Media in the Classroom

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Twitter and a bird bath

I created my first Twitter account in 2007 - back when the social media giant was just beginning to take off. Over the next seven years, I’ll be honest with you - I’ve fallen in and out of love with both twitter and Facebook, and there have been long periods where my digital footprint has grown dusty from disuse.

However, something that I haven’t tried for a long time is using Social Media in the classroom in any organised way - and that’s something that I’m going to remedy this semester. I know a lot of teachers and administrators are hesitant about things like twitter and Facebook - and rightly so - because it has been linked to all kinds of unsavoury events. But I don’t think a blanket ban is the way to go about solving this problem. After all, no one is proposing we ban all books just because some are inappropriate for young readers, are they? Admittedly, the comparison is not exact, but I think that there is great potential in the use of Social Media - and specifically twitter - to make educational content much more alive and engaging for students. 

Let me give you an example. KQED started a project called Do Now. This is a chance for young people around the world (although it is mainly located in North America at this stage) to use Twitter to talk about local and global issues. What happens is this: KQED put together some informational materials from a range of sources. This can often include a video, some fact sheets and a  general introduction. Students read these materials and then they share their ideas using the hashtag #DoNow and the topic. Students from around the world can then share their thoughts - but even more importantly - they can make connections and debate issues by following the hashtags and replying to other students.

At once, the school debate has gone from a small classroom-based affair to a global opportunity for critical thinking and considered argument. Talk about powerful!

If you’re interested in finding out more about the project, you can see here:

And if you think that you might be interested in using twitter in your classroom, I’ve put together five guidelines that I think are helpful:

  • Be a good digital citizen, but even more so, be a good citizen.

Be nice. Don’t tease or bully people. If someone does this to you, block them. Don’t give out personal information. This is the number one rule for you to teach your students about online behaviour.

  • Don’t engage with trolls.

There are some people on the internet who only seek to make others feel bad. Don’t try to reason with them. Block them and move on. Teach your students to do this.

  • Use hashtags and mentions.

It’s important for other people to be able to find you - and reply to you. So use hashtags and mentions to speak to people.

  • Follow the teacher.

Get your students to follow you - and then follow them back. This means that you can see what they are doing - and you can model good behaviour.

  • Keep public and private separate.

Students might have their own twitter account already. Make a new one just for the purpose of school. This way, students can keep their personal lives on one account, and their public ones on the other.

Where are your best suggestions for using social media with students?

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (45) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

To follow up on Rusul's comment...

The chats can be hectic with lots of tweets flying by, especially on some of the bigger chats like #edchat or #edtech. Tools like Tweetdeck can help with that by pulling tweets with the relevant hashtag into a column, making it easier to follow the conversation.

Here's a link to Tweekdeck:

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

One tool I recently learned at ISTE to help navigate and learn about upcoming Twitter chats is: You can also participate and tweet directly to the platform from this free tool. Some other handy features:
--> You can slow the chat speed down and participate at your speed
--> It automatically adds the chat hashtag (so you don't have to remember every time)
--> I also think it has some stats around the chat as well, to gauge performance etc. (but I could be wrong)

Happy chatting!

Stacey's picture

Thanks to you, Rusul, and Samer and Elana, for the extra resources. Fingers crossed. September here we come! :-)

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

You'll do great, Stacey. You're already a step ahead with your plan to connect to a wide PLN through Twitter. :-)

thedanieladams's picture

I would offer that you carefully use Facebook with your students, especially if it is your personal Facebook account.

I do not friend supervisors, students or parents on Facebook. They can follow me on Twitter which because of the character limit, forces you to craft your posts carefully.

Sometimes we veer off from being good digital citizens and post something we might not be proud of. You'd hate for a Supervisor or someone you don't really know to get access to that information. Keep your accounts locked up unless you're specifically using it for the classroom. Have multiple accounts or use a pen name so that you protect your best interests down the road.

_Tech_Teach's picture

This is very helpful. Thank you for including the guidelines for social media! My students are very into Twitter, and I found that students spend more time on educational discussion because of the conversations on Twitter. They love getting notifications, even if they are from teachers, and students are quick to respond to questions or discussion posts. I have also noticed that they are much more deliberate in their posts, as there are character limits. They are also watching their audience because it can be traced back to them. I also love how they can easily check for Tweeted homework, even if they forgot to use their agenda! However, I am very cautious about keeping my private Twitter account completely separate from my school Twitter. Students have no need to see personal information!

macmac34's picture

Thanks for the tips and the website for #DoNow. I am a music teacher and it is great to see new ways of seeing the arts in the media. This is especially really interesting for older students to access and it offers up to date relevant conversation topics that are seen in the media and arts communities. The project also sparks new ways of creating and connecting with other artists to learn new techniques especially seen in music technology.

Katia Trevino's picture

Thank you for the article and the information on KQED. The resources from that website are awesome and I have signed up for PBS LearningMedia. The Do Now project has been placed on hold until 2018, but I am excited to incorporate that into our classroom.

khsueh's picture

Upon first reading the title of this article, I was automatically hesitant. Imagining the incorporation of social media, specifically Twitter, within a classroom setting is something so foreign to me. That being said, I found this article to be both very informative and enlightening. I loved learning about the Do Now project and all of the benefits that it has been able to bring to students, specifically in regards to an increased global understanding. Additionally, I enjoyed reading your tips on helping to make the idea of incorporating Twitter into education a much less daunting task. I am excited to learn more about this topic!

Tori's picture

Thank you for writing this article! It is always neat to see teachers integrating technology students use everyday into their classroom. Using social media in the classroom is simple way to engage students in discussion! I love it! Are there any other precautions you would suggest to keep students safe while using social media?

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