How to use — and derail — social media in education

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Monday, December 23, 2013

How to use — and derail — social media in education

How to use -- and derail -- social media in education

Social media has changed the world, and it has the potential to impact education in powerful ways. There are great ways to implement social media in the classroom, and there are ways to derail the potential it has.

Social media has changed the world, and it’s not going away.

Before, we networked and chatted at parties and get-togethers to get caught up. Now, we check a Facebook feed.

Before, we had to pay long-distance phone bills just to hear people’s voices. Now, we can video chat with Skype or Google Hangouts for free.

Before, we had to have a book published or a TV show broadcasted. Now, we can create blogs and podcasts to share our ideas with the world instantly.

Before, we waited for the evening TV news or the morning newspaper. Now, we can check instant Twitter updates on just about anything.

Social media has also changed education, but it hasn’t lived up to the vast potential it has.

Using social media in education

Here are some great ways social media can be leveraged for good in classrooms and schools:

1. Connecting to an authentic audience: Blogs give students a powerful, free medium for publishing content to the world. Twitter, Facebook and other social sharing sites give them the megaphone to share their ideas with a large, real-world audience. Sure beats the “audience of one” they used to write for when they turned papers in to their teachers.

2. Connecting with experts: Many authors, speakers, politicians, business leaders, movers and shakers have a Twitter account. Never before has there been such ready access to great, real resources for students. And just like connecting to an authentic audience above, it’s all free.

3. Making global connections: Video chats can bring the world to the classroom. Geographical features, food, customs and cultural practices that were just lines in a textbook before can now become a real live experience through Skype or Google Hangouts. (An easy way to dive into that realm is Mystery Skypes, which I’ve just started using this school year.)

4. Broadcasting school information and success stories: Facebook claims more than 1 billion active monthly users, and Twitter claims more than half a billion. There’s a good chance that lots of parents, students and community stakeholders are there, too. School Twitter and Facebook accounts are using that social media power to distribute announcements, showcase student work and show off what’s great about their schools.

5. Creating conversations: Social media gives a voice to many who either didn’t have one before or wouldn’t use it. Schools can gather instant feedback or suggestions from the school community through a quick Facebook poll or Google Form survey. Some schools and districts are hosting Twitter chats to engage parents and students at one time every week or month on important issues.

These ideas just scratch the surface. With the power of social media, the sky’s the limit for potential uses in education.

Derailing social media in education

For all the game-changing impacts social media can have in education, fear and misinformation will derail it.

School boards and administrators, with their concerns for privacy and security, often remove or restrict all forms of social media. What needs to happen are conversations about safe, revolutionary methods of integrating social media into the classroom instead of binding policies about what tools to shut out of classrooms.

Again, social media isn’t going away. It’s a daily part of life for so many people on the planet, and it has opened so many doors as it has developed. Really, it hasn’t just opened doors — it has created doors that never existed.

A great contribution education can make to today’s students is to help them know how to navigate social media safely and effectively AND to show them the vast potential it holds.

And that goes beyond the obligatory digital citizenship lessons/class. It means using it. Modeling it. Talking about what happens there.

By sticking their heads in the sand about social media, education leaders are missing out on an amazing teachable moment.

Instead of banning social media, let’s figure out how it can fit in the curriculum and how we can equip students for the future.

How have you seen social media used in education? What is possible when social media connects with education? Share your ideas in a comment below!

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