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Social Media/Networking in the Classroom

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

I belong to a LinkedIn group for instructional technology and the question this week was, "How do you feel about social media and networking in the classroom?" The question sparked alot of discussion. Some members of the group were FOR using social media saying that it:

  • helps teachers connect with students and encourages communication

  • encourages relationships and does not replace traditional communication

  • allows students to give feedback anytime, anywhere (which can prompt discussion in class the next day)

  • enhances communication for the shy student

  • allows students and teachers to interact in new, exciting ways

  • enriches the learning experience by fostering collaboration, discussion, and meaningful dialogue

  • fosters student interaction and exchange of ideas

  • enables teachers to establish "backchannels" that can encourage rich communication

  • prepares students for successful employment (search for jobs on SNS, establish a professional web presence, post a resume, research a target company and connect with other job seekers)

Whereas there were some people who were AGAINST using social media stating reasons such as:

  • needing to plug in to human relationships and unplug from the internet

  • slander against teachers they do not like

As you can see, there were more advantages then disadvantages. Here's my opinion. If you read my previous post about using Twitter in the classroom then you know I am all for using social media in instruction. Social networking sites are the most visited sites on the web. They allow individual (students) to present themselves; establish and maintain connections; and share content they've created as well as their thoughts about particular topics. SNS are digital tools like any other that educators must implement and use wisely. In addition, we must teach our students how to use the tool and interact with it responsibly. We must make students aware of the potential dangers of using the internet (in any setting) and model behaviors for digital citizenship and netiquette. Moreover, it is always a good practice in any educational setting to have a acceptable use policy that includes all hardware, software and even digital tools that will be used in the classroom environment. This allows for libel behavior and other potential cyber misbehaviors to be minimized.

My favorite response from the discussion states that, "Social Networking Sites are a very effective tool for developing preliminary relationships as it negates key pitfalls such as language barriers and social inhibitions; It meets the needs and attitudes of Digital Natives: Later a physical classroom allows students to interact in a face-to-face environment essentially transforming impersonal first interaction into a meaningful connection." I like this comment because I too believe that educators must understand that more students are entering the classroom as digital natives. That means that they have already been immersed in a culture of connectivity, public display, feedback, sharing, constant availability and global interaction. In their lives full integration of digital devices is the norm. They are growing up immersed in digital technologies; ipads, cellphones, ebooks, video games, simulated learning, etc. In an article that I read on, it stated that digital natives ages 12-24 spend 4.5 hours a day viewing tv, internet, mobile media, etc and 82% of 7th-12th graders media multitask while doing homework (surfing the web, listening to podcasts, IM). SNS allow us to "network" with students. As the term denotes, a network is a system of interconnected people with similar interests who interact and remain in contact for support or to maintain a relationship. If we want to build relationships with students and be available to support their learning of content then they must have access to a connected system of classmates and teachers at all times. I have mentioned revolutionizing teaching before. SNS are tools that will help do that. Although students are using technology, they are using it superficially. We can use SNS and other digital tools to enhance inquiry, critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills; all of which are essential 21st century skills.

Although Twitter and Facebook are the two most popular social networking sites, they aren't the only ones that you can use in the classroom. Other SNS that are great for the classroom include:

  • Delicious-social bookmarking

  • Ning-create your own community and turn it into a social network. It takes the idea of groups and takes it to a whole new level

In short, today's students have made technology a necessary and natural part of their communication and lives. We can tap into their educational needs by simply changing the way we view technology in education.

More Resources to check out:

Will the real Digital Native please stand up? article.

Check out this video about digital natives.

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