These days, social media is ubiquitous. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more have all been woven into the fabric of our society. While a majority of the population has welcomed such a transition with open arms, the field of education has been hesitant to jump on board.
Perhaps due to the taboo of electronics in the classroom, the ever-present fear of “stranger danger,” or a simple lack of understanding of how social media works, schools have shied away from implementing social media to supplement instruction.
This does a disservice to the students in their charge. The fact is, social media is here to stay. Children are going to use it whether or not they’re taught the right way to do so. Rather than taking an all-or-nothing stance when it comes to social media, teachers should embrace the idea that, if they show their students how it can be used productively, it can be a boon for education as a whole.
Communication and feedback
At the most fundamental level, social media is all about communication. With the click of a button, social media allows you to communicate with your family members, friends, and colleagues about absolutely anything.
When it comes to education, the benefits of instant communication cannot be overstated. When used correctly, social media can be an extension of the classroom. Students can work on group projects collaboratively online without having to be physically near each other. If a student needs help with his homework — or forgets what his homework actually is — he can easily contact a friend, classmate, or even the teacher at will. Students can even attempt to contact expert sources to learn about a specific topic, leading to a much deeper understanding of the topic at hand.
Students can also receive — and give — instant feedback regarding their understanding of a lesson. Using social media, teachers can communicate with students immediately regarding their performance on an assignment (one that perhaps the teacher had graded after school hours). On the flip side of this, students can discuss with their teacher areas of a lesson that were perhaps confusing to them, allowing the teacher to modify future instructional plans to better suit the students’ needs.
Put simply, when used correctly, social media allows an ongoing line of communication between teachers, students, and classmates that will ultimately improve the learning environment as a whole.
Creating and curating resources
The other main benefit of using social media within the classroom is that ideas, knowledge, and information can be spread throughout the globe within seconds.
Think of the articles and resources you share on a daily basis through your own social media pages. When you find a recipe you think your friends will enjoy making, or come across a particularly inspirational quote that a friend in need would do well to see, your first inclination is to hit the share button, right? When children are given the ability to do so, amazing things can happen. Picture a classroom of students working on individual projects revolving around the same theme (marine animals, for example). If a child studying starfish comes across an interesting article on jellyfish (whether he’s in the classroom or not), he can share it electronically with a friend who’s been assigned jellyfish as his topic. Using social media, students can potentially be exposed to an incredible amount of informational resources that benefit the entire classroom.
Students can also proudly share their own work on social media. One of the mainstays of education is the idea that your work should be shown off to your community. Illustrations and posters are hung on the walls. Speeches are read over the loudspeaker. Athletic accomplishments are displayed proudly in trophy cases. But these displays are all confined to a single school community. With social media, students can share their work with millions of potential viewers. In turn, others may contact them with information and resources that can take their learning even further.
When social media is used correctly, students and teachers can create a community of learners that spans the entire globe.