7 Ways Teachers Use Social Media in the Classroom
By Jess Fee
Millennials live and breathe on social media, so teachers are learning how to incorporate the medium into the classroom successfully.
In doing so, teachers not only encourage students to engage actively in the material, but they also provide online communities for students that might not exist for them in real life.
But how are teachers infusing social media into their everyday lessons? We’ve highlighted several different examples and offered our own ideas on how to best engage students.
1. Encourage students to share work socially.
Anna Divinsky created an iTunes U class at Penn State University called Art 10: Introduction to Visual Studies, which she then adapted into a massive open online course (MOOC) on Coursera. The MOOC, called Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques, amassed more than 58,000 students.
For each class assignment, students were responsible for evaluating each other’s work. Because the class was online, social media played an essential role in connecting students and creating an online community.
Students shared their work on a variety of platforms. On Flickr, they tagged their artwork with “artmooc.” On Twitter, they included the #artmooc hashtag. Others posted to Facebook, and continue to do so to this day, even though the course has been over for quite sometime.
“It was fascinating to see learners from all over the world wanting to connect with one another in order to build a sense of community,” Divinsky says.
But what was even more surprising was how social media allows students to self-organize into smaller, independent groups. These groups were based on commonalities like age, language and art proficiency levels. By allowing students to share on the site of their choosing, social sharing will come more naturally.
2. Use a hashtag to facilitate guest speaker discussions.
According to a recent YPulse survey, 21% of Millennials use Twitter as their primary source for finding news. Encouraging students to engage with guest speakers via Twitter makes them more engaged with the platform and prepares them to raise important questions online.
During an investigative journalism class at New York University, one professor invited prominent journalists to come speak to the class of more than 200 people, and encouraged students to live-tweet the interview using the hashtag #IJNYU. Because the class was so big and the tweets so frequent, the hashtag occasionally became a trending topic in New York City. Students were then required to turn in a Storify summary based on their classmates’ tweets, within 24 hours.
Another way to incorporate hashtags during classroom discussions is to encourage students to tweet questions to a guest speaker as the speaker is talking. This is exactly what Mara Einstein and Chad Boettcher did for NYU’s Innovations in Marketing class. This method ensures that students don’t interrupt the speaker while he or she is talking. More importantly, however, is that it also engages the students’ social communities outside of the classroom, so people who aren’t taking the class can also chime-in with questions for the guest speaker.
3. Require students to keep a blog.
While teaching The Business of Media, another class at NYU, Ted Magner required students to keep a “trends” blog on the media sector of their choosing. Not only did this activity keep the students reading relevant articles every day, but it also required them to become familiar with hyperlinks, image embeds and how to cite sources digitally. Perhaps most importantly, it gave them material to include in portfolios after graduation.
Keeping a blog is a phenomenal way to work on your voice as a writer, and to truly explore and hone in on your personal interests. However, between essays and homework assignments, many college and high school students see blogging as more of a chore than a positive career move. By requiring students to keep a blog in place of some traditional assignments, you make your job as a teacher easier, and you help them establish their digital presence as an emerging thought leader.
4. Require original expert sources.
For journalists, LinkedIn has proven to be an invaluable tool to reach out to sources, from CEOs to corporate PR representatives. Teachers can foster this skill by encouraging students to reach out to sources directly through LinkedIn.
It should be noted, however, that free accounts on LinkedIn are mostly intended to be used for professional networking. Features that come with a LinkedIn Premium subscription may make the source-gathering process easier.
5. Use Google Hangouts.
If you’re teaching remotely, or if you’re teaching an online class, Google Hangouts can be a great way to check in with students face-to-face.
This is also a good option for adjunct professors who wish to conduct office hours but may not be on campus often enough to meet with all of their students.
6. Create a social classroom on Edmodo.
Edmodo helps you create a social, digital classroom. On Edmodo, you can vote, post assignments, create a class assignments calendar, and upload photos and messages to students.
With more 17 million users, Edmodo has been a highly successful endeavor. It allows students to get real-time feedback by taking quizzes online. Teachers can also engage socially with one another by sharing lesson plans online and asking questions to their online communities.
Edmodo’s Global Read Aloud program encourages students to practice their reading and public speaking skills with other students from around the world.
7. Hold a class in Second Life.
For the class Philosophy of Cyberspace at Northwestern University, students created accounts on Second Life to explore themes such as online identity, online community building and in-game economics.
Some days the students would meet in the virtual world instead of meeting at a real-life lecture hall. The professor would send out an email saying, “Class on Tuesday will be held in Second Life instead of the lecture hall. I’ll email you all the coordinates soon.”
Editor’s note: The writer of this article took both Innovations of Marketing and The Business of Media while a student at NYU.