Ideas for Using Social Media in Your Classroom
If you’re a teacher, you’re likely always looking for ways to get your students excited about learning. One innovative method is through social media. But while some teachers already use Tweets, status updates and text messages in their lessons, you may be unsure how to employ these tools in an engaging way. There’s good reason to try, says Kathy Cook, who holds a master’s degree in education and is director of educational technology for the University of Phoenix College of Education.“Students are using these technologies in their personal lives, so it makes sense to leverage them for teaching and learning,” Cook notes. Here, she offers six strategies to help you incorporate social media into your classroom:
Set a good example. It’s not enough now to teach students their lessons and how to be productive members of society, Cook says.
“It’s important to cover digital citizenship so that students understand how to use social media inside and outside of school,” she emphasizes, adding that college admissions staff and employers routinely check applicants’ social media profiles.
Create a class Facebook page. On the Facebook® social network, teachers can build pages for their classes that they can use for “communicating class announcements, class activities and assignment deadlines, etc.,” Cook says. She adds that such pages also can be an easy way for parents to see what their kids are doing in class.
Another option is employing tools like the Edmodo® site, often referred to as the Facebook for schools, which Cook says “provides a secure place for teachers to interact with students, parents and administrators.”
Establish online guidelines. “It is important that class pages are constantly monitored by teachers," Cook says. “If there are inappropriate comments or posts, they can be removed, and the offender can be restricted from posting but not viewing in the space in the future.”
School boards and districts are getting in on the act, too. For instance, Cook notes that the New York City Department of Education has its own social media guidelines for the classroom.
Devise a Twitter “channel”. The Twitter® microblogging service, with its 140-character limit, is a good choice for teachers who want to deliver short bursts of information to students or help them practice concise writing.
“It is a very easy tool to use because teachers can create an account and send students updates about classroom activities and homework,” Cook says. If students follow other people on Twitter, though, your messages may get lost in the shuffle. Prevent this by using a specific hashtag that students can use to filter your posts, she suggests.
Cook also notes that Twitter is a practical option for teachers to communicate privately with parents.
Use Skype for guest speakers.While you still can invite guest speakers from the community to your classroom, Skype® videoconferencing software allows you to effectively bring in people from around the world. “Teachers can reach out to authors and experts in their fields and see if one of those individuals is willing to videoconference with the class,” Cook says.
Gone are the days when students were limited to the library for in-depth research. “Technology allows students to have access to a wealth of resources for learning,” Cook notes, “including many primary sources of information.”
Get ideas from your peers.You may already use the LinkedIn® professional network to connect with other teachers, so why not capitalize on those relationships to exchange lesson plans and other ideas?
“Teachers might use LinkedIn, Twitter, Jing® [video-sharing site] or other social media tools to join professional groups related to teaching,” Cook points out, recommending that they use the sites to meet teachers locally and from across the globe who are interested in the same subjects.
Facebook Pages vs. Facebook Groups
Should you use a Facebook Group or Page to connect with your class?
What is your Social Media Presence as a faculty member?
As social media opens up a new space for teaching and learning, we are increasingly aware of the difference between our personal and professional digital footprint. Like Separation of Church and State, your personal and professional accounts provide different functions. Do you Tweet? Do you have a private Facebook for your class? How do you balance a personal and a professional presence on social networks as the lines between the two blur?
In-Class Professional Usage
Out-of-class Professional & Personal Usage