There are reasons why less than half of educators surveyed use social media as a classroom tool. Cyber-bullies, worried parents and the wish to further students’ non-electronic interpersonal skills may top the list.
Statistics show some teachers also fear students’ superior aptitude with the technology. Others simply feel incompetent with ed tech.
Only 16% of K–12 teachers gave themselves an A in ed tech skills, in a recent University of Phoenix Educational College survey. That’s a marked contrast to faculty in higher education, where the majority of educators said they consider their ability with classroom technology “better” than their peers’, according to a 2016 Nielson study.
Grades matter to teachers. They’re unlikely to give themselves a low mark they don’t truly feel they deserve.
- 40% of the K–12 teachers gave themselves a C or lower in ed tech on the Phoenix survey
- 25% said they fear students’ technological prowess outshines their own
- 63% use classroom technology daily
- 58% use educational apps
- 47% use social media to collaborate with colleagues
The statistics suggest educators are willing to experiment with some technology, despite feelings of insecurity. However, they are moving slowly when it comes to tapping into students’ passion for online connection.
Consider that 90% of young Americans use social media. Consider, also, that much of that interaction occurs without adult oversight. Thus, social media can function much like a playground that lacks a supervisor to break up fights or tend to skinned knees, bumped heads and hurt feelings. For the older kids, it’s a bit like a party without a chaperone. Things can get pretty wild.
Children and teenagers learn invaluable skills through play — even through parties — some of which comes from the light-handed guidance teachers offer in those loosely structured situations. On playgrounds, bullies face consequences. What happens to child cyberbullies? Who teaches them how to relate to others with courtesy? Who reminds them of the golden rule?
Some may argue that social media monitoring is a parent’s job. Teachers might offer a more dispassionate approach that complements parental oversight. They can bring their hard-earned classroom management skills to observing students’ interactions.
What do teachers fearful of classroom social media miss?
- Informed discussions — Teachers who use Facebook or other channels in the classroom can demonstrate authority with the tool. That makes students more likely to heed their advice about self-limiting exposure and self-governing private thoughts. They can’t simply say to themselves, Well, teachers don’t get it.
- Invigorated debate — Students engage with the subject of social media ethics. That makes it great fodder for helping students hone critical thinking skills through dialog and debate, even in the lower grades. Politics is abstract; social networks are real.
- Ongoing assessment of students’ writing development — Writing instruction is arduous, especially when the occasional five-paragraph paper is the only assignment that puts a teacher in touch with student progress. If instructors set boundaries — require students to post entries in complete sentences, for instance — they can informally assess how students are absorbing lessons in grammar, mechanics and vocabulary, as well as their overall ease with written expression.
- Opportunities to affirm students’ notions of good and bad behavior — Kids usually know when someone’s done them wrong on social media. They feel it. Bullies often know when they’re out of bounds. However, they don’t always know they don’t always know how to change their behavior — or that there are consequences if they don’t. Victims can feel they lack the power or authority to respond to cruelty. Teachers have an opportunity reinforce students’ basic sense of online justice — something that’s especially critical if they lack good role models at home.
Bringing social media into the classroom opens a Pandora’s Box. It tacitly condones students’ love for their smartphone screens — a phenomena experts say could warp students social skills and increase outsized social anxiety. However, failure to include social media on the curriculum may only increase smartphones’ potential for negative side effects.
Teachers must educate themselves about how to create safe, controlled virtual environments. Kids will always look for places to explore beyond the realm of adult oversight. In many ways, this too is healthy. However, their online networks need not be entirely unguarded. Brave teachers can transform social networks into fresh educational frontiers, while also using them as material for instructing students in timeless skills.
Stay tuned to Direct Network for helpful how-tos about how to use social media in K–12.