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Is Your Classroom Social Enough?

Lauren Gilchrist
Lauren Gilchrist - Tweet @LaurenG_EdChat

For your homework tonight, please upload your video to your group's YouTube channel. Don't forget to post three photos using our Instagram hashtag by next Tuesday!"

For many, the thought of using social media in the classroom is terrifying. A 2015 University of Phoenix survey conducted by Harris Poll determined that a mere 13% of K-12 teachers include social media as a part of classroom learning, and only 44% of teachers believe incorporating social media can enhance a student's educational experience.

Perhaps the most eye-opening statistic to emerge is that the number of teachers who express a hesitancy to include social media in the classroom routine has increased by 7% (from 55%-62%) since 2013.



Why Social?

Interactivity, reach, and familiarity are just some of the most obvious benefits of social media for students. It's an environment where even your most introverted students might feel more comfortable contributing to the discussion. When we look at college and career readiness, it's important to note the growing number of job opportunities for people with training and experience in the fields of digital citizenship and communication.

Some of the potential pitfalls of social media engagement, such as online safety and privacy concerns, can be incorporated into the curriculum to help open students' eyes to the power and permanency of the Internet.


Get Started

The sky's the limit, really. Here are a few steps you can take to kickstart your social teaching efforts:

Go through the guidelines: Review your school's social media guidelines as a class. If you don't have anything in writing just yet, you have yourself an excellent opportunity to engage students in helping to craft school policy. Imagine being able to watch them present their suggestions to the administration! Not sure where to start? Edutopia has put together some guidelines to help you move forward.

Start small: Become comfortable in the safest environments possible with "closed" social platforms before taking the leap. Whether it's your LMS discussion board or an external platform, there are ways to get the "social" experience without diving right into the deep end. Keep in mind that the definition of "social media" is a stretchy one – as long as it fits the bill of an online community for discussion and collaboration, many of the skills being developed will translate to a public environment. 

Branch out: Expand to external interactions (outside of just classmate-classmate) by reaching out to educators elsewhere to set up a digital partnership. Skype in the Classroom is great for taking these first steps, and a blog page or unique Twitter hashtag can allow for more consistent interaction outside of just the face-to-face time. Set up a weekly chat with a class in another state (or country) and encourage your students to come prepared with questions about culture, traditions, and what topics they're working on in class. 

Encourage parent involvement: Blend your classroom's social media use with the updates you're already sending to parents. One example would be asking students to summarize recent projects or reading assignments in blog posts and encouraging parents to read them throughout the year. If you want a little more control over comments and visibility, consider education-specific sites such as Kidblog and Edublogs.


Use it yourself: Teachers are flocking to Pinterest to share ideas on everything from classroom setup to lesson plans. Twitter chats are a great way to learn more about how your peers around the world are tackling the same challenges you face every day. YouTube is being opened up to more and more schools after years of wholesale blocking – consider setting up your own personal channel (or one just for your classroom). 


5 Ways to Learn

Do you believe in the educational benefits of social media, but need a little more training yourself before introducing it into the classroom? Here are some of the best ways to get the knowledge you need:
  • Take a course at a local community college or university.
  • Attend an educational conference near you. If you already do that, look for a social-centric session at your next one (you're almost guaranteed to find one). 
  • Use online videos to curate and reflect on ideas from the comfort of your home or classroom.
  • Talk to other teachers who are already using the platforms you're curious about. Keep the conversation going after you try a few of them out. Who knows? You may even establish a personal learning network on social media before too long.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your students for ideas. They're typically the most tech-savvy group of people on the planet – it should come as no surprise if they end up being the inspiration behind your very best ideas.  

Social media is always evolving, just like your own instructional approach. Take the first steps toward a future-ready classroom by engaging your students online and helping them become better citizens of the digital world we live in. 

Start with the Course Learning Center

The Course Learning Center, the only LMS made specifically for Skyward, can make it easier to get social, build digital literacy, and promote a student-driven learning environment. 



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