The phenomenon of social media has altered the ways in which teenagers communicate and engage with each other. Social networking platforms are the second most popular form of communication among teenagers; 29% of youth send messages through these sites (Lenhart, 2012). In the past, teenagers reported using Twitter to follow their favourite celebrities and receive news updates. However, they now report using Twitter to post their own content as well as following their friends (Madden et al., 2013). The use of Twitter has gradually increased among teenagers; 24% now use Twitter, a figure that is up from 16% in 2011 (Madden et al., 2013).Yet, despite these numbers, social media platforms like Twitter are not being integrated into classrooms to impact and enhance learning, communication, engagement, and motivation.
I know several teachers who have voiced various concerns over the use of social media, the most significant factor being the issue of privacy. Some measures you can take:
1) Read your school board’s social media policy (they should have one!)
2) Read the policies and guidelines of the social media platform you’d like to use (for example, one must be 13 years or older to have a Twitter account, hence students in grade 8 and above can create their own)
3) Ensure students set privacy settings so only confirmed followers can view their content
4) Ensure students do not include any biographical data on their account, which might identify them (i.e., full name, school name, school district, pictures)
5) If you are posting pictures, make sure students faces are not visible (there are apps that can blur out student faces)
6) Send a letter home to parents outlining which platform you are using and why; provide explicit examples of how the social media tool will be used in class
7) Have parents sign a consent form and keep a copy for your records
8) Encourage parents to follow you so they can see what kind of learning is happening in class
9) Inform your administrators about your use of social media and encourage them to follow you!
10) Integrate digital citizenship with the use of social media; teach examples and non-examples of the proper use of social media
11) Have students complete some fun icebreakers or activities to get them accustomed to the platform and the proper use of the tool in terms of etiquette and good behaviour
*Remind students whether it’s their personal account or their educational account, nothing is private! They are responsible for anything they post to a social media site and if anything is posted that has a hint of bullying, they are accountable and there will be consequences.*
Using social media in the classroom is a great way to teach students not only about digital citizenship but also about the dangers of social media. We teach our kids not to talk to strangers they meet in public places so by the same token aren’t we responsible for teaching them the same dangers in online learning platforms? Isn’t it our obligation to teach them how to be safe online? The majority of our students believe that they are safe behind their computer, ipad, or iphone because no one can ‘see’ them. They share information freely without realizing not only how far that information can reach but also who has access to that information. This is why one of the first things I do in my classroom is have students Google themselves. I still remember one of my grade 8 female students, who after Googling herself, shouted out a bunch of expletives because she didn’t understand how a personal picture she had posted on Facebook was now online for anyone to see. This led to a great discussion with my class about being safe in today’s digital landscape.
I have used Twitter in my classroom for the last couple of years with great results. I want my students to be active participants in their learning rather than just being passive consumers of information. Twitter has allowed every single one of my students to have a voice. As educators, we always talk about getting our students ready for the “real world” or wanting to bring the “real world” into our classrooms. So why aren’t we doing that by integrating social media into the classroom? What better way then to interact with the “real world” by using social media platforms like Twitter where a class can connect with someone like Chris Hadfield or a mathematician or an environmentalist so students can ask questions and engage in critical dialogue?
If you haven’t integrated Twitter or other social media platforms into your classroom, I encourage you to do so. It is only through using and interacting with the platform that you will see the value. You can’t really judge until you’ve tried it, right? 🙂
Next Post: Ideas on how to Integrate Twitter into Your Classroom
Lenhart, A. (2012). Communication choices. PewResarch Internet Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/03/19/communication-choices/.
Madden et al. (2013). Teens and social media. PewResearch Internet Project. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/05/21/part-1-teens-and-social-media-use/