How Social Media Has Changed the Classroom for the Better

Social media gets an easy bad rap as a distraction. But there are some seriously empowering upsides to living in the interconnected global village.

 

As dominating as it is in our daily lives (and our students’!), it’s hard to believe that social media only started taking off about a decade ago. And while it is safe to say that social media has infiltrated our schools, this trend didn’t come with an educator’s roadmap. Like so many movements that take our communities by storm, teachers are left trying to piece together how to respond intentionally to the needs of our students.

If you are not quite ready to roll out the welcome mat for the likes of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook, you are far from alone; with social media comes very valid concerns, such as student privacy and distraction. But today, we’re focusing on the positive lights this here-to-stay shift has turned on in our classrooms — and how we can put them to use.

Communication

Just a generation ago, reaching a teacher outside of school hours was tricky business. Not at all the case today, where homework help, grades, attendance, and class announcements are just a convenient click away — for students and their parents. Whether it is via email, tweets, blogs, private messages, apps, or tags, our students have no shortage of options when it comes to contacting their educators outside of the classroom.

Worried about crossing lines? Establish healthy boundaries with office hours and ample “disconnected” time, and use privacy settings to protect personal numbers, accounts, and info.

Collaboration

Working with a team is a major life skill — and technology provides easy access to forums and workspaces where students can meet up virtually. Students can upload content instantly, dialogue through comments and video chats, and immediately receive feedback. The result? Skyrocketing productivity and efficiency.

Media Consumption

The parents of our students had to catch the news on TV at a designated time to stay “up-to-date.” Because most have smartphones in their pockets, that is far from the way today’s students operate. This benefits teachers, too: It’s never been so easy to keep our classrooms relevant.

Yeah, yeah. They need a little (or a lot of) direction when it comes to who to follow and what sites to go to, but kids have a literal world of news to consume in real time. Guide students to follow valid sources, show them how to be fact checkers, and give them opportunities to synthesize information and develop their own opinions and ideas. (And don’t forget about our teacher’s guide to avoiding fake news!)

Networking

Making and maintaining useful connections are life skills that the internet, apps, and smart devices have streamlined. Today’s students are able to navigate an abundance of industries with ease — and an abundance of practice and familiarity with new technologies to do so is prepping them for their ever-connected futures.

And while posting endless selfies comes to mind when considering how to use social media for self-promotion, we are #stoked for our students to use platforms to showcase academic and extracurricular successes, gain recognition from universities and scholarship organizations, and pump up their fundraising and career-building efforts.

And it’s not just for the kids. From Twitter to Pinterest and beyond, teachers are connecting, extending their professional networks and sharing everything from class management tips to lesson plans online. Collaborating with a teacher in another district, state, or country has never been so incredibly easy.

Engagement

Online? Public? Live audience? Done right, these can be powerful descriptors of exceptionally relevant and meaningful classwork. Social media lets you extend your classroom dialogue both outside of school hours and outside of your classroom. Learning takes off when students are empowered with globalized voices. A simple class hashtag can connect ideas and express opinions with a broader community. As the teacher, you become a facilitator and moderator, building and enforcing safe and appropriate margins for students to engage in.

Yep — social media gets an easy bad rap as a distraction instead of an advantage. But there are some seriously empowering upsides to living in the global village that social media has created. This is a permanent change in our culture comes with a whole lot of dynamic education potential. Let’s harness these platforms to engage students and enhance learning.

Looking to help your students brush up on their digital citizenship? Be sure to read our how-to.

1 Comment

  • Amy Casaldi says:

    As I struggle with some of the negative aspects of social media and its impact on my students, this article helped me to look at a different point of view and consider some of the positives of social media’s use.

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