Posted on 04 September 2014.
A majority of teachers don’t use social media in the classroom, despite most of them using it in their daily lives. The reasons for this are fairly self-explanatory; teachers either don’t see how social media and technology can be adopted for the purpose of education, or they do see the benefits but are scared off by the potential risks. Though there may be some validity to both of these trains of thought, ultimately, the benefits of adopting social media and technology in the classroom far outweigh the negatives.
If you haven’t yet adopted social media in your classroom, now is the right time to reevaluate your position – it could (read: will) benefit you and your students.
Why Social Media is the Future of Student Outreach
Social media is no longer a simple distraction. Individuals, particularly young men and women and teens, are increasingly turning to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to communicate with friends, stay abreast of family members’ whereabouts, digest up-to-date news on local and international events, and go about their day-to-day. What this means for educators is simple: there now exists another medium through w
hich you can communicate and interact with your students. Teacher-student communication no longer has to end when the bell rings at the end of the day.
If you don’t yet appreciate the difference such a connection can make, consider this example. If a student misses class due to an illness, there aren’t very many avenues available to you, the educator, to inform this student of the day’s studies and homework assignments. True, you can try to contact the phone number you have on record, but how often does that work? With social media, you can place your entire syllabus online, for all to see, at all times. And you can be confident that the missing student will see this information. Social media allows you to leverage a platform that puts you in touch with your students more often, in more places.
How to Use Social Media and Technology to Your Advantage
Ultimately, social media is a communication platform. Whether you’re using Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or some other website, you are using a tool that allows you to share information with a large group of people, in real time – and in turn, those individuals can respond and engage. Social media platforms enable conversations to take place. Think about how you can leverage that ability. You can host a post-class debate on a topic that has recently been covered in the coursework. You can conduct a Q&A. You can counsel a student online, in private. Or you can host a Live Tweet event for a significant occurrence – say, the President’s State of the Union Address.
Your tools shouldn’t be limited to the Internet, though. Consider bringing hardware into the classroom to facilitate a more engaging learning environment. Tablet uses are many, and this truth seems to have caught on in the educational realm. The tablet has slowly started to infiltrate its way into classrooms across the country, and for good reason: they can be tremendous learning tools. If social platforms enable conversation anywhere, at any time, tablets enable the traditional blackboard (nay, whiteboard) to be re-imagined, shrunken down, and placed into a book bag. With tablet uses as varied as they are, how you use the device in your classroom is really up to you. As the cliché goes, “the sky’s the limit.”
Social Media and Tech Integration Improve Learning Outcomes and Save Students Money
Yes, that’s correct, technology gives students a huge advantage because of all the educational apps and programs that are available. For instance, if a student needs tutoring in a subject, instead of hiring a person at a steep hourly rate, he or she can select form a myriad of apps and programs that can help in all the same ways a real person can. The student is also able to do it on his or her own time. Students can also access a ton of different social media platforms and conversations to get help with subjects, studying, projects, etc. Learning becomes all-encompassing and tailored to each student, which is helping raise learning outcomes. This means less flunking and less repeating of course, which saves money as well!
Special Considerations: Remember Internet Etiquette
It’s important that you take certain precautions when branching out into the social realm. You cannot engage with students in the same manner, or on the same level, as you do your peers, friends and family. You must maintain a professional and authoritative discourse at all times. To ensure you don’t accidentally overstep your bounds or find yourself in trouble, follow these simple steps:
- Don’t use your personal account to engage with students
- Don’t peruse, interact with, or “like” your students’ pages
- Exercise prudence when posting photos onto your professional accounts
- Avoid potentially controversial topics, such as politics and religion
In plain terms, stick to the basics, such as that day’s homework assignment or the next day’s coursework. Being mindful of these considerations will allow you to effectively – and safely – teach from home. That is the power of social media. So what are you waiting for?