Close your eyes and picture your students, before or after school, or between class periods. There’s a good chance that your mental imagery included a group of students looking down at their phones or some type of mobile device.
Frequent social media use has become the new norm in today’s society: “Twenty-two percent of teenagers log on to their favorite social networking sites more than 10 times a day,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. “And more than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day.” While many are quick to point out the drawbacks—time consumption, cyberbullying, the lack of face-to-face interaction—social media’s benefits are commonly overlooked. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, stating that “engaging in various forms of social media is a routine activity that research has shown to benefit children and adolescents by enhancing communications, social connection and even technical skills.”
Why not take a platform that students are fluent in and encourage them to put it to good use? Social media offers a unique opportunity for teachers to access and utilize student voices in a powerful way. The following are some additional reasons to invite social media into your classroom:
- Students who may not feel comfortable speaking in front of a classroom of their peers may find their voice on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. If participation is a part of your grading system, students who may have struggled previously now have an even playing field.
- Social media allows students to continue the conversation long after class is over. The debate can continue even when the bell rings, and can start fresh with new perspectives the next day.
- It’s important for students to learn safety, manners, and judgment when it comes to the online realm (and it’s aligned to the ISTE standards). Students are more likely to absorb best digital citizenship practices in the context of an ongoing project, like creating Facebook pages for fictional characters or engaging in conversation with a classroom across the world.
- Use social media to underscore the importance of spelling, grammar, word choice, and precision in writing. No one is going to read your writing if it is inscrutable (or goes over the 140-character limit!). Ask students to bring in samples of comments/posts that they’ve been tempted to disregard due to improper use of grammar/mechanics. Have a discussion about the importance of knowing the rules… and knowing when to break them.
Ready to incorporate more social media in your classroom? Check out this list from Common Sense Education for some ideas, and this article on the how to remix the most popular social media platforms into classroom hubs.
How have you included social media in your classroom? Share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.