[Teacher Tips] 5 Dos for Using Social Media in the Classroom
[Teacher Tips] 5 Dos for Using Social Media in the Classroom
There’s no escaping it—social media has become a regular part of our everyday lives. Chances are, even if you aren’t using social apps to directly engage with your students or classroom parents, you’ve probably used them—to follow a teacher influencer you admire on Instagram, to search for a lesson plan idea on Pinterest, or to engage with fellow educators on Twitter. Using social media in the classroom can be a valuable learning tool, and the practice can open the door for a deeper level of classroom engagement and parent involvement if implemented thoughtfully. If you’re considering trying out a social media platform in your curriculum, classroom management strategy, or parent communications, check out these five tips for incorporating social media into your classroom.
- Know which platform goes with what audience
Knowing the differences between all of the many social media apps out there and what kind of communication each one is streamlined for can help you make your classroom’s social media implementation a success. Before you set up an account anywhere, you should consider who your audience is (your students, your class parents, or both) and what your goal is in connecting.
Let’s say that you want set up a group where you can share updates, class news, and reminders with your 2nd graders’ parents. You can use just about any app you want to, but you’ll probably have more success if you choose a platform where your class parents will get a notification when you add new posts to the page and where they can comment and connect with each other. In this case, a private Facebook group would probably be your best bet. If you’re looking for a way to send out homework reminders to your 8th graders, you’ll probably have more luck with a class Twitter account. Check out BookWidgets’ blog post on 25 ways to use social media in the classroom for more ideas on how to use different social platforms in various ways.
- Build classroom community with positive posts
If you are planning on directly engaging with students or parents via social media, it might be a good idea to make sure that you keep a positive tone on your posts and reserve more serious matters for an in-person class discussion, parent email, or a conference. If your students leave the lunchroom a mess, you’ll probably get a better response from everyone if you have a discussion when they return to class about why it’s important to respect the cafeteria and to clean up after themselves, versus if you just snap a picture of the mess and post it on your class Facebook page. On the other hand, if your students to an all-star job tidying up their tables after lunch, and you find yourself just brimming with pride, by all means, share some positive praise! You can curate a positive and communal classroom culture if you treat a shared space like a class Facebook group or Instagram page as a way to celebrate student success, encourage parent participation, and spotlight all of the things you’re doing over the year.
- Befriend trends
The Internet moves faster than the speed of lightning (even though Wi-Fi connections sometimes don’t), and often, it feels like a new “trend” is taking off every other day. Trying to keep up with whatever the latest viral craze is might not be the best use of your time, but occasionally pulling out a trend or two and finding a fun method to tie it back into a lesson or class activity can be a way to engage with your students and weave social media into teaching. It can be as simple as an assignment where students make their own memes to summarize the latest chapter from the class reading, make a TikTok video as a character from history, or do some research into color theory to find out why some people see a blue and black dress and some people see a white and gold dress (it is blue and black).
- Embrace the power of connection
One of the most amazing things about social media is its ability to connect anyone, anywhere, to anything. Is your elementary class learning about the solar system? Check out NASA’s Twitter or Instagram account, and share some of the amazing things real-life scientists and researchers are learning about the universe every day with your students! Are your 6th graders unconvinced they’ll ever have to use long division in the future? Pull up a YouTube video, and show them a real-world example!
The social media accounts of major museums, scientific institutes, renowned news organizations, authors, historians, and everyday people from around the world are exploding with livestreams and videos and pictures that can bring whatever you’re teaching to life right before the eyes of your students with a few clicks. And the best part is, once you’ve introduced your students to these amazing and credible sources, they’ll be free to go back and visit with them long after you’ve moved on with your lesson.
- Don’t forget about the #NoFilter parts of life
Sometimes, after looking through our social media feeds for so long, we can feel a little dim looking up at reality, not seeing the picture-perfect world around us. Maybe when you tried that super brilliant, no-fail bulletin board decoration idea Pinterest, it turned out more like #PinterestFail. Or maybe you’re seeing posts from colleagues on how their students have really embraced their “tweet like a historical literary character” writing assignment, but you’re not seeing as much enthusiasm from your students as you’d hoped.
Keep in mind that a lot of the time, what we see on social isn’t always what it seems, and many times, the “perfect” DIY craft videos or no-fail lesson plan ideas only look that way because whoever posted them is only showing off the final product, not the many drafts or failed attempts it took to get there. If using social media in your class isn’t quite working out the way pictured it, don’t get discouraged or give up. Every classroom is unique, and no one knows yours better than you, so don’t be afraid to change up your strategy if you see that it’s not working or to try something new. And, even if things don’t come out picture perfect, if at the end of the day, your students feel connected to you and you’re seeing your class engage in their learning, then that’s all the matters. Besides, who doesn’t love a good #PinterestFail bulletin board?
It’s always a good idea to review your school’s or district’s social media policy before putting anything into practice, but weaving social media applications into your school day is just one great way you can cultivate a 21st century classroom environment. For more tips and tricks, check out our blog, Dos and Don’ts of Social Media for Teachers.