Social Media: every students’ obsession and every teacher/principal/district’s nightmare.
But what if educators reshaped their perspective on Social Media, and created more intentional uses of these communication platforms that bear calculated weight? After all, Social Media is here to stay; so districts may either choose to ignore it (and its users [read: students] by default), or embrace it.
For educators (teachers, principals, central office, superintendents), it is important that we understand the practical implications that come with utilizing Social Media in the classroom. Before we move forward, I think a definition of Social Media is require.
Social Media: any platform that enables users to participate in social networking through technological use.
Examples: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and LinkedIn
Practical Implication #1: Connecting students to the real-world
This is the most critical of all implications with Social Media usage in the classroom. Students need to be challenged to think globally about how Social Media use can affect them, especially in a real-world context. This can be done at a basic level by challenging students to think about how their classroom content can be executed using Social Media.
Take Alex, for example.
Alex is an 8th grade educator in Chapel Hill. Part of the traditional 8th grade curriculum in North Carolina is focused on answering the question “What is your legacy?” To enhance this curriculum content and augment student understanding, Alex allowed each 8th grade student to “hijack” the school’s Instagram feed during the last quarter of school. In this lesson, each student took a picture at the school that represented their own legacy. Beneath the picture, students were required to write detailed captions that expressed how the above photo captured their legacy; or, students could leave a message that spoke to the 6th and 7th graders at the school about what they’ve learned in their time spent there.
Thinking globally, consider yourself.
Do you have a Twitter account? I do. I have often participated in a recent trend called TwitterChats, where individuals globally come together and converse for a brief period of time about a subject that is meaningful to the users. For me, I often participate in TwitterChats based around education.
Think about the further implications of using messaging systems like Facebook Messenger, Facebook itself, Twitter, and the like, where individuals can send comments or questions to someone and potentially have a near instantaneous response. How much more would your students be engaged in their science lesson on space if they could Tweet out to NASA and gain an immediate response. Would that make a lasting impact on their learning?
And let us not forget how using these digital platforms in the classrooms engage students in understanding digital citizenship. It prompts students to consider what they post, why they post, and the intent in their post, understanding that Social Media can indeed be utilized for more than the typical “selfie.” There is a cost to being a 21st century learner, and it is imperative that we as educators partner with students to help them understand their responsibility in digital citizenship.
Practical Implication #2: Developing a sense of community
Many schools have moved to using some digital platform beyond email systems to communicate with their school community (i.e. – students, parents, staff). Many principals in particular have found the benefit of using feeds on digital sites and applications that allow for real-time updates. Anything from Live Streaming a school basketball game, to updating students/parents/staff of immediate closure, due to no running water. Eric Sheninger, a principal in at a New Jersey high school, aptly stated, “Since society as a whole is actively using social media, it only makes sense to connect with my community through these means.”
Think of the impact this could have on the betterment of your school community; the camaraderie that can be gained from the use of digital social platforms. Students that can obtain homework help from fellow classmates, via Twitter; parents who could participate in group discussions that encourage betterment of the school environment through fundraisers, PTA/PTO; stakeholder updates that showcase student and classroom achievements, along with highlighting upcoming school wide events.
Practical Implication #3: Building a meaningful relationship with stakeholders
All stakeholders have skin in the game. Whether it is time, finances, or engagement, all stakeholders have placed some value on investing in your school. Like with any business, stakeholders want to know that their investments are growing. Similar to connecting parents to the school community with photos and written updates on Social Media that showcases achievements, the use of Social Media also allows stakeholders to see how they can invest further.
A few years back in my class, I posted some updates on Instagram updating stakeholders of the garden project that my students were working on. Because of the post that I made with a picture capturing the learning, a local company saw my post and reached out to ask how they might could help. Several email exchanges later, and this particular company donated finances to allow my students to purchase some of the final materials they needed to complete the project, which the students did not have at the time.
If you are not currently utilizing Social Media platforms for your school, it is certainly not recommended to dive in head first. Instead, proceed with some caution. Find schools and educators that are using these services and that are doing them with great intent. Dialogue with them on the pros and cons that they have seen. Encourage the community to also help lead the charge, as it will take more than one individual in your building or district to engage this process. This will certainly kickstart the online community aspect when you engage others in this capacity.