For better or worse, our students are drawn to social media. It is “new” for them, it's progressive, it can be a place to communicate in “secret” where parents aren’t present, and it can be a lot of fun. For most parents and educators, it probably creates more problems than it solves. Too often, students don’t know how to handle the freedom and experience of social media.
While it sounds like a good idea for schools to embrace helping students with this, it can feel like “one more thing” on a teacher's plate. Most social media communication happens after school hours, so is it really a school’s job to wade into these murky waters? Besides, since we are very busy most of the time, is it practical to think we can keep up on all the new apps and platforms that come around?
Practicing Proper Social Media Behavior
Despite all of these drawbacks, most educators feel that we should attempt to guide students to be good stewards of social media. The conventional thinking is that they will be using it soon enough anyway, so it can be a very “teachable moment” in their lives if we embrace it.
The conclusion we draw is that we shouldn’t put our collective heads in the sand when it comes to student social media use. But at the same time, the wild west of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat aren’t really good or appropriate options for the classroom.
One idea that could work is to create “social media” situations in the classroom, through which students can practice digital citizenship with one another under the teacher’s guidance. This may not be the best solution available, but it can be a starting point for teachers to get students thinking about their online identity and how important words are when we post them.
Here are some options that are worth looking into:
- Seesaw: This is a great site for implementing basic, teacher-controlled social media in the classroom. Students can post work or videos about a topic and other students can comment on these—much like on Facebook or Instagram. It is all limited to within the classroom, so there isn’t a danger of other kids commenting or the discussion getting out of control. There is also an option to allow parents to access the students' projects.
- Edmodo: This is a great platform for all kinds of student learning. It has many options that allow for posting and grading student work. There are also collaborative discussion boards that students can use in a “Twitter-like” format to help them model social media decorum. Plus, there is a parent engagement option for teachers to use if they are interested.
- Mentimeter: This is basically a “discussion” board of sorts, but can be a great way to formatively assess students. The student uses a code to log in and answer questions, and the responses are posted anonymously on the interactive whiteboard. This site is nice because there is a setting that requires the teacher to approve the post before it shows up—this can be a useful tool when talking about digital citizenship.
- Google Classroom: There are multiple options here for allowing students to interact online. Students can share their papers and allow others to comment on them, or create basic shared documents and brainstorm together. And everything is saved in the cloud, so if inappropriate messages arise, it is easy to go back and find them through the revision history.
- Nearpod: Nearpod is a presentation software that allows the teacher to cast their presentation to the students’ devices. Students who are logged in can then comment, vote, or answer quiz questions about the content. The new collaboration options are great for allowing students to post their ideas and comment on others that they read.
- Twiducate: This is an online platform specifically for the classroom. It is easy to use and engaging for students, while at the same time being safe and easily monitored.
Implementing these social media sites in the classroom yields other learning benefits beyond digital citizenship. Students can collaborate together on projects, as well as read other students’ posts and reflect on them. Classroom social media can help students to think more deeply. Teachers foster this collaboration in the classroom all the time—by using these sites, they can encourage it outside of the classroom, too.
While all this great learning is going on, maybe the teacher can reinforce good online etiquette as well as how to monitor our words and comments. Through all of this, teachers can (hopefully!) help students to navigate this complex and ever-changing world.
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