Tips for Including Social Media in Classrooms
social media classroom

By Rob Klindt

While there’s no doubt that adding social media to lesson plans can bring many benefits to K-12 classrooms, teachers need to choose the most effective ways to adapt this technology to their needs.

Social media programs like Facebook and Twitter offer a dizzying array of options from live chat and texting to multimedia, gaming and even shopping. But using them simultaneously can lead to confusion and distraction.

Focusing on Social Media

Teachers thinking of bringing social media into their classrooms should remember that the content of their lesson plans is what’s most important. Social media is simply a tool to help deliver and process that content in a way that will engage students.

For example, in a classroom science project where two student teams are tracking the growth of bacteria samples, a classroom Facebook page can be used to post daily results that can be shared and compared between teams. Social media uses the status-update and sharing features of Facebook to document the results of each team’s work.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

When considering using social media in their classrooms, teachers should weigh the advantages and disadvantages for their particular schools and districts. Social media may be a great fit at a suburban college-prep high school, but not so great at a school with limited resources that is more focused on meeting state test score standards.

Advantages

  • Ease of access
  • Encourages collaboration between students
  • Promotes the exchange of ideas
  • Engages students with using technology
  • Many students already have tech devices like tablets, smartphones

Disadvantages

  • Unfocused students can be easily distracted
  • Cyberbullying can occur among students
  • Regular technical updates are needed
  • Web filters are needed to screen inappropriate content
  • Not all students can afford their own tech devices

Check for a Social Media Policy

Before getting too far along in their pursuit of social media in the classroom, teachers need to find out if their school or district has a social media policy already in place. If so, they should use it as a guideline when setting up a social media strategy for a particular classroom.

If the school doesn’t have a social media policy, it’s a good idea to use this as an opportunity to involve other teachers and administrators and work with them to develop one.

The Next Steps

Once a teacher has determined the best opportunities for incorporating social media in their lesson plans, the next step is to decide which social media programs to use. Always keep in mind any school policies regarding programs like Facebook, Twitter and others. Many schools filter these sites from their servers for security and content reasons. You may have to seek out alternative programs that offer similar features.

Next, figure out how features from a particular social media program can be adapted for use in class. Facebook might be the right choice for homework updates, links to outside educational material and even class comments. Twitter might be your go-to platform for short and quick reminders about tests, class projects and grades.

Finally, decide how big of a role social media should play in the classroom. Keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages of each program and take into consideration key interests and student needs in the classroom.

Below, we’ve listed some of the more popular general-interest sites and a selection of sites that focus on education.

General Interest Social Media

  • Facebook: The gorilla of all social media sites with 1.1 billion users worldwide. It offers users instant status updates, live chat, photos, videos and even online games.
    Visit the site
  • Twitter: Primarily a text service where users send short updates, or “tweets” limited to 140 characters or less. Photos can also be included. More than 554 million users.
    Visit the site
  • Pinterest: A free service that lets users “pin” documents, videos, photos and other things to a virtual “pin board” to share with others. More than 10 million users.
    Visit the site
  • YouTube: The best-known online video sharing site. Registered users can post videos and create their own channels. More than 1 billion users visit the site each month.
    Visit the site

 Education-Focused Social Media

  • screen grab for KidBlog

    Kidblog is an option for adding blogging to your classroom.

    Edmodo: A “closed” social learning network designed specifically for use by teachers and students in K-12 schools. Includes a robust collection of instructional tech tools.
    Visit the site

  • Saywire: An online platform of scalable learning communities developed for teachers who want to create customized learning environments for students using the latest tech tools.
    Visit the site
  • Students Circle Network: Includes social networking features similar to Facebook, but with a focus on education and classroom engagement.
    Visit the site
  • Kidblog.org: Safe and simple blogs for students in a secure classroom community where teachers control student blogs and user accounts.
    Visit the site

Note also that Facebook offers a page “Facebook in Education” page designed specifically for educators who want to know how best to use the site’s features in the classroom.

 A Word About Age

Be aware that some social media sites, like Facebook, require users to be 13 and older. Others, like Twitter, have no age limit. Teachers should know the terms and policies of any social media program they use in their classrooms.

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