Let’s say, as academic dean, department chair or head of school, you’re persuaded that introducing social media in the classroom has undeniable advantages. You know your students’ lives are brimming with online interaction. You want to bring that enthusiasm to school. You want to ensure skills and ethics students develop under your roof also apply to the virtual world.
In past Direct Network articles, we’ve delved into the pros and cons of introducing social media in a K12 environment. Now, it’s time to look at ways to transform the technology into a valuable learning tool that supports your school’s curriculum.
5 Keys to Teaching With Social Media
1. Start small and communicate
Encourage one or two teachers to use social media as a teaching tool — as an experiment. Avoid implying that teachers who feel uncomfortable with these networks should make a change. They might revolt and bring their worries and complaints to parents, who, in turn, could end up seeing the curricular trial through a lens of fear. Instead, seek volunteers — enthusiasts with innovative ideas, who feel at home with the technology.
One you’ve selected a few teachers, take care to communicate with families about the academic purpose motivating the choice. If your school’s mission includes helping students develop 21st century skills, then the reasoning should be obvious.
2. Know less is best
Stick to one social media channel. The most-widely used are the image-heavy Instagram and Snapchat; LinkedIn, which targets career-minded adults — and Facebook, which, given its established place in the social media world, is likely your best choice.
Facebook allows you to develop a community within the network centered on specific themes. Teachers can create pages devoted to their courses, which encourage written and visual expression. Students can post mini-essays of one or two paragraphs. They can contribute relevant images. They can even create videos.
Relatives are likely to be on Facebook. You can invite them to post on the page and function as supplemental chaperones.
3. Integrate with classroom objectives
The theme for teachers’ pages should further course goals. Language instructors can ask students to post in their foreign tongue. A science teacher can use the page as a way to have students explore relevant online resources, discuss the latest science news and debate the methodologies used in research. English teachers can use the page as a place for discussion of stories, novels and poetry. It could become a hub that introduces students to contemporary authors — and the lively online literary scene. Let students to become critics themselves — or even post their own very short stories and poems.
4. Set explicit boundaries
Emphasize that the school’s honor code applies online as much as it does in the brick-and-mortar classroom. Lying, cheating and bullying are absolutely unacceptable. If students engage with other digital media at home — texts, video games, Snapchat — encourage classroom discussion about when and how others violate the this code. Have teachers ask about the wisdom of maintaining the honor code online.
Let students (and parents) know that — under no uncertain terms — honor code violations will be removed immediately from the page.
5. Develop cross-curricular skills
Ensure teachers establish boundaries for written communication that foster cross-curricular skill development. Have them tell students, for instance, that posted sentences must be complete. They must include a capital letter at the beginning, a noun and verb and a form of punctuation at the end. Take care to be explicit about this.
Ask instructors to invite discussion about how and why grammatical sentences prevent online miscommunication (Punctuation conveys meaning, after all). Encourage dialog about ways to be the most clear and effective with written communication. Extend this to other media. Ask students to critique photographs and videos. This will help them build critical thinking and communication skills at the same time.