What educators should know about Social Media

Posted by Shelley H. on Mar 24, 2016 6:00:00 AM

FaceBook.pngAccording to Smart Insights , 76% of Americans use Social Media. So it seems natural to at least ponder the idea of whether or not social media has a place in the classroom.

Here are some things you should know about Social Media:
  • Social Media has a minimum age of at least 13. If you teach in the elementary classroom, you should not have students who have access to their own social media accounts. All social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest) have policies indicating that you need to be at least 13 to sign up for an account. (This age is actually set by Congress in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.)
  • Most school districts have developed a Social Media policy. Somewhere in the policies for your school, there is likely a social media policy or an addendum to the technology acceptable use policy. Make sure you know what your school expects of students as well as teachers in regard to the use of social media. Some schools have very strict policies about not engaging students via any type of social media. In other words, some schools expressly forbid the use of social media for communication with students. Make sure any plans you might have for using Social Media don’t violate any of your school policies.
  • Social Media can be a great alternative communication tool. I know many teachers who have a Facebook page for their classroom or use Twitter to tweet about projects and events. Just realize that if you teach elementary, these posts and tweets would be for the parents of your students rather than the students themselves. For some parents, this is a great way to get news and events from the classroom without having to read another email.
  • Social Media is only useful if it is kept up-to-date and relevant. If you teach middle school or high school, and your school policy allows it, having a classroom presence on social media can be beneficial to your students. According to the Pew Research Center 92% of teenagers go online daily and 72% of them actively use Facebook. If teachers create a classroom Facebook page with posts about homework assignments and project reminders, it can be helpful for students who are already on social media to have those reminders show up in their news feed. However, this is only effective if you are the type of teacher who will take the time to keep the page relevant and up-to-date.
  • It is important to model appropriate digital citizenship. Even though your elementary students don’t have social media accounts yet, they very likely will. It is never too early to start teaching good digital citizenship. You can set up a classroom twitter account that students take turns posting on. Or, you can model good digital citizenship through pencil and paper activities. What if you have a ‘blog wall’ in your classroom where students can ‘post’ thoughts or ideas related to a topic they are studying? While Social Media might feel like it doesn’t have a place in the classroom, educating the next generation of users is essential.
What about you? Do you use Social Media to enhance your classroom lessons? What challenges do you find? What advantages are there? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
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