3 Ways Teachers Are Using Social Media to Engage Students

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social media to engage students

3 Ways Teachers Are Using Social Media to Engage Students

by Brittni Brown

The battle between teachers and social media accounts for student attention has been one in which teachers seem quite likely to lose. High schools have banned phones, established site blocks, and multiple other strategies to reduce student abilities to gain access to the internet during class time. However no matter what hurdles faculty put up, students teach themselves ways to get around them.

The key phrase to note there is ‘teach themselves.’ Most students are more motivated and will perform above and beyond in order to utilize social media. Because of this, perhaps it is time to start working with social media as opposed to fighting against it. Taking advantage of social media as a learning platform is a new idea that has been met with some great success thus far. Here are three ways teachers use social media to engage students.

Bring in the Experts

One profound way educators are using social media to engage students is through the use of platforms like Skype to connect with experts on the topic. There really is no better way to learn than by asking the experts your questions about their field. And professionals can be brought in for just about anything. Skype alone offers a number of resources that can help teachers find authors, entrepreneurs, or inspirational TED speakers that can drive home the point of a classroom discussion.

Using videoconferencing, students can also connect with students from different classrooms across not only the nation, but across the world. For example, in order to teach is students about different world religions, Michael Kaechele collaborated with other classrooms using a videoconference. He had his Valleywood Middle School in Michigan students draft questions about the religion to ask students at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Florida. The opportunity helped students understand the religion from people who practice that were their own age.

Together, they arranged an innovative project where Michael’s students in Michigan crafted a series of questions about Judaism that Sylvia’s students answered during the course of a videoconference using Skype, one of the most popular free videoconferencing applications available. The project was a huge success, giving students in both classrooms the chance to have honest conversations about religion — and to build genuine relationships with people of different faiths. Without videoconferencing, Michael’s students may never have had the chance to “get to know” a person who actively practiced Judaism.Learn NC

Addressing Current Issues

Today, social media is one of the primary sources of news and revolution organization in the world. This can make it a prime learning tool for teaching students about history and how it is impacting current events. Doing so can make students feel as though the material they are learning is more relevant to their lives, which has been shown to increase engagement and retention.

A number of teachers have been able to incorporate social media and history by creating separate social media pages or groups that students become a part of. From there either teachers or students can post relevant current events for the group to see and discuss both inside and outside of the classroom. Students have a much greater role in choosing what material is covered throughout the course.

Tackling Technical Skills

Helping students learn about STEM-related subjects using social media has also become a great teaching tool. For instance, every year Verizon holds its Innovative App Challenge to bring the best and the brightest students and their ideas to center stage. Teachers that have their students participate in the challenge teach students some of the computer programming tools necessary to help develop new mobile phone applications that can connect them with both educational resources and friends.

Schools with student teams that win the challenge receive $20,000 grants to build their programs; plus, students win tablets and help to finish the development of their app and make it available to the world. Since nearly 91 percent of the US population uses a mobile phone, this is a relevant way for students to learn about the other side of how their favorite social media apps such as Instagram and SnapChat are created. Furthermore, since the amount of marketing using social media is only expected to increase, knowing how to promote something they have made isn’t a bad skill for students to have experience with.

Integrating social media into the classroom doesn’t have to be the equivalent of ‘giving up.’ In fact, it can be a way to increase standards in student education by expecting them to use tools they already understand in new ways. Because it is already something most students like and care about, they relish the opportunity to learn with it. Social media offer a clear, positive method of increasing engagement and keeping students interested in the subjects that must be taught.

So, next time you get the urge to tell students to put away their devices, take a moment of pause and remember that there are ways to use those devices and social media to engage students.

Brittni Brown is a recent graduate of The College of Idaho; she currently works for a local marketing startup. She writes about education and technology. In her free time she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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