Using Social Media to Engage the Classroom

The use of social media in the classroom is nothing new. For years students have been logging on to Facebook or other such sites while a lecture drones on in the background. In the past, this often led to bans of social media sites in class or prohibition of electronic devices in the classroom altogether. But social media is changing the way people communicate, it can create a sense of community, and it is becoming an increasingly important part of life in the 21st century. Recognizing this, many instructors are now harnessing the dynamic potential of social media and using it in the classroom to get students who have long been connected in class to connect to class.

It’s All About Communication

Communication is perhaps the most important aspect of social media’s inclusion in the classroom. After all, teaching is essentially the communication of knowledge. Because of this, as communication evolves, teaching must evolve with it. This doesn’t mean that traditional classroom strategies should be replaced, but there are multitudes of ways they can be enhanced by the use of social media. For instance, instructors can use Twitter to keep students informed of upcoming due dates for assignments. They might also keep students thinking outside of class by Tweeting things they come across that may be relevant to what is being taught. A classroom Facebook page could also be useful. Instructors can post relevant material to the page or reiterate important points from lectures, leaving a digital record behind in a place where students are likely to visit outside of school anyway. This will aid teachers in keeping everyone up to date and remembering or comprehending what was covered in class, thus, making their job a little easier.

Tools for Teachers

Allowing teachers to better communicate with students isn’t the only important aspect of

communication in the classroom that social media has the potential to enhance. In fact, student communication may be even more important considering the potential value of a classroom community. Some instructors are finding that “backchannels,” or digital conversations that go on during or outside of class, are encouraging more students to speak up than usual classroom discussions. Some students may be shy in an oral setting or may simply communicate better in a digital forum. Either way, more voices and more opinions lead to more understanding and more learning. Backchannels aren’t the only way that the community aspect of social media can aid in the classroom. Students can share notes, ideas, or even research materials with their classmates in an online community setting, and for teachers, the possibilities for interesting collaborative projects are boundless.

Social Relevance

Perhaps the most significant benefit to incorporating social media in the classroom lies in its relevance. Social media will continue to play a role in the lives of students outside of school and teaching them how to use it responsibly and effectively is important. Teachers might show examples of celebrity Tweets that have had negative impacts on careers, or show them how to create and manage a healthy online profile that can aid them in the future.

The examples listed here are only some of the ways that teachers can or are already using social media in the classroom to engage and educate the 21st century student. As social media continues to evolve, its utilization in the classroom should evolve with it, because in today’s fast-paced world evolution is essential, especially in a field like education.

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