Initially, you may think of social media as a distractor that interferes with the learning process — and it can be if its use in the classroom is unmonitored and unchecked. However, as you’ll soon see from the suggestions below, there are numerous effective and educational ways to depend on social media in the classroom to benefit teachers and students alike.
Have Students Create Social Media Profiles as Literary Characters
When teaching literature, it’s important to try and get students to really understand the personalities of the characters they’re studying. What are the characters’ dreams, emotions and motivations, and how do those aspects add energy and dimension to the respective pieces of literature?
Consider encouraging students to explore the lives of fictional literary characters by filling out social media profiles as if they were those people. To monitor things, build a profile that you use as a teacher and follow the page of each literary character a student makes.
This is a worthy exercise to do if your students complain that the characters from books are too dry or one-dimensional. As the participants populate the social media profiles, praise them for incorporating content that’s precisely in line with the book, but also give them freedom for a little creative expression that could’ve easily happened within the confines of the literary work.
The one potential downside of this tip is that it requires students to have unused email addresses. To save time in class, it’s a good idea to have all the accounts set up beforehand so students can just log into the fictional social media accounts and start filling them out as the characters.
Once you decide on a social media site to use, allow kids to download the app version. Then, they can use it on their smartphones or other gadgets if desired.
Let Kids Follow the Twitter Accounts of Famous People and Analyze the Posts
Young people tend to love the short-form format of Twitter, and the social media site has become rampantly popular. In the classroom, permit kids to use the Twitter app to follow and analyze the verified accounts of famous people, such as political figures and authors.
Several times per week or more, get kids engaged by talking about what was posted and why. It’s also a good idea to look for other worthy Twitter accounts. One excellent option is Willy Shakes. It tweets works from Shakespeare line by line, which may make them easier for timid students to digest and embrace.
Look for Educator-Approved Social Media Sites and Relevant Apps
Some educators aren’t immediately on board with urging their students to use social media at school because they’re concerned about privacy, data mining and other things that could affect well-being. Ello is an invitation-only social media service that began in 2014 and, by some estimates, was attracting up to 30,000 new users per hour. It has since taken a different focus and has a Pinterest-like format for art-related content.
However, there are still many educator-friendly social media sites you can gravitate toward in the classroom. Some examples include TweenTribune, a website run by the Smithsonian Institution that has a newspaper-like format, presents content in age-appropriate categories and allows students to post comments about what they read.
The Skype app may even suit your learning needs, especially if you use it to connect with other classes in different states or countries. Technology bridges geographical gaps and helps students see commonalities between themselves and other learners. It also gives you more options as an educator for helping students see new places, especially if school trip funds are tight.
Track Social Media Mentions With a Dedicated Tool
There are several websites and apps that allow you to track how often people talk about different subjects on social media, news sites, blogs and more. Social Mention is one stripped-down but effective option that makes it possible to customize results with filters. Then you can check to see the frequency between mentions of your search term, the number of unique people talking about that topic and more.
Increasingly over the past few years, we have seen how social media has empowered everyday people to engage in what’s known as citizen journalism. If used in a timely manner, tools like Social Mention could give students glimpses into breaking news events before they are even covered by mainstream media outlets.
Equip Students to Raise Money for Charitable Causes
You can also depend on social media’s power to get students excited about raising money for charitable causes, ranging from cancer research to animal abuse prevention. Apps such as GoFundMe, ChipIn and Go Get Funding help users set up their own fundraising pages for chosen causes. You can also do a variation of this tip to generate funds for class outings, new classroom equipment and the money required to bring a guest speaker to class.
Social media certainly has worthy uses in learning environments. Tap into these ideas as they are or customize them as needed and anticipate clear results. Advancements like Facebook Live have already made it possible for people from all over the world to tune into special events and other interesting types of content. As this progress continues, we’ll likely be continually reminded that technology leads to unconfined learning opportunities.