Would you believe that some schools and districts still spend thousands of dollars on filters and firewalls in a futile attempt to block students from social media? Not only is it wasteful because enterprising students will find a way around any system, but social networks also offer a wealth of educational benefit.
I hope that you’ve already started leveraging the power of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, etc. If not, perhaps this will serve to inspire you, because a student’s skills with social media will be just as important in the 21st century as their in-person networking skills—perhaps more so.
Facebook: Role Playing
The time is coming where the majority of real people on the planet will have a Facebook account. Meanwhile, there is a shortage of fake people on the site. Let me explain.
There is no better way to demonstrate your understanding of a character than to become that character. Have the students create a Facebook page (real or just mocked-up) for a character they just studied or read about. As you probably know, Facebook’s questionnaires can get in-depth, so the student will have to demonstrate deep knowledge. For an added twist, have the characters interact with each other (Romeo and Juliet messaging each other is easy, but what if Romeo met Katniss Everdeen first?)
Twitter: Original Sources
Gone are the days where research projects from students required some MLA citations from books long forgotten in the school library. Social networks, particularly Twitter, can make students up their game by having to approach actual experts for quotes on a project they are working on.
It’s not as hard as it sounds. Simply find the Twitter handle of someone who works in the field of interest and direct message them. Message a few to improve your odds. Obviously, the less famous the expert is, the better the odds of a response. Suddenly their research projects take on a much more professional, even journalistic feel.
Pinterest: 21st Century Bulletin Board
The Common Core places a lot of emphasis on students creating work and then sharing it amongst their peers and gathering feedback in an effort to improve critical thinking and reviewing skills. But that can be embarrassing in person, both for the student whose work is on display and anyone asked to comment on it.
Enter Pinterest. Now student work (the majority of which is digital, anyway) can be posted on the class board for all to see, even outside the school. This lets students gather feedback without intimidation, gives parents a look inside what’s going on in the classroom, and can also form the foundation of your portfolio come appraisal time.