Tips for Effectively Using Social Media in the Classroom

Reposted with permission from

A reasonably well agreed upon definition of social media is that it includes web based applications that users can create and share information through. This includes social networks, such Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in addition to other web based tools such as blogs and wikis.

Educators often use social media to connect with other educators, stay up to date on classroom best practices, learn about new technology, and of course kill time like the rest of us. In fact, a recent report just shared that educators “dominate” twitter compared to other users. This is a stat that I think we should all be proud of.

The purpose of this post is to share ways that educators are currently using social media in the classroom, then provide a few tips on how to get started if you are interested in giving it a try. I also hope to hear how you are using social media (or would like to use social media) in the comments section below.

Tree with social media icons as leaves

Despite the heavy use of social media by educators, it appears most are using it personally, but have not yet made the leap into using it in the classroom. A recent article from US News shared that only 20% of teachers use social media in the classroom despite a large number of them feeling it could benefit students. Reasons for not using in the classroom usually boil down to fear of using it inappropriately and/or lack of training on how to use it with students.

4 Ways Educators are Using Social Media Today

Educators that are effectively integrating social media into the classroom are doing so in a many ways. However, I find that most fall into one of these four categories:

  1. To write for an authentic audience.
    When students are asked to write a paper, paragraph, tweet, or other piece of content that the whole world (or at least their peers) may see, things change. All of a sudden correct grammar and punctuation are important. Things change because it is no longer just the teacher who is going to provide feedback.I once worked with a 2nd grade teacher who was looking to integrate blogging into her classroom. In the past, she would show a short video and try to get kids to tell her what they learned or found interesting. Not getting many thoughtful answers, she began using a blog to post videos and had students use the comment section to post their thoughts. After explaining what a blog was and that all students (and parents) would be able to see each others’ comments, students really began to think about what they would write and what others would think about it. The end result was a success and she began using the blog in even more areas.
  2. To teach social media skills.
    An interesting article by Edutopia stated that teaching writing is important, and that there was only one form of writing that could get you fired or hired, would likely be secretly looked at by college admissions offices, or could prevent (or help to ensure) you become elected as a political official if you choose to go that route. What type of writing is that? You guessed it… Writing that is posted on social media channels. So if it is really that important, why isn’t everyone teaching it?
  3. To keep parents informed.
    Most parents like to stay informed about what occurs in the classroom. Rather than sending out weekly emails, or phoning one parent at a time, a classroom blog or Facebook page allows parents to get regular updates about what students are learning, projects that may be due soon, and more.
  4. To connect with others.
    One of the greatest benefits of social media is that it allows us to connect with others around the world. For classrooms, this is one of the easiest ways to connect with other classrooms that may be quite different from our own. It is also one of the most efficient ways to connect with subject matter experts that could assist with current units of study. For example, let’s say you are learning about Sub-Saharan animals in Africa. What better way to learn more about the animals that to connect online with someone from a zoo, or better yet from an actual wildlife sanctuary in Africa!

So what do you think? Do any of the above ideas sound like something that you would be interested in trying in your classroom?

Here’s how I recommend you get started:

  1. Choose a platform.
    Create a classroom Facebook page, Twitter account, or blog. Your school or university may already have a platform that they prefer you use. For example, Edmodo is a classroom social networking platform similar to Facebook that many schools prefer. Similarly Edublogs is known for providing an excellent education blogging platform that provides more safety controls than what you may find on a general blogging platform.
  2. Inform everyone of your plans – Different schools will have different policies on the use of social media. If you are at the university level, you probably do not have as much to worry about. However, if you are in an Elementary or Middle School setting it may be necessary to receive permission from parents. Regardless of the permissions needed, be sure to set up a classroom blog or Facebook page as opposed to having students each create or use their own account. And when posting, double check that students are not using personally identifiable information.
  3. Start with one topic/idea/project – Using social media is not something you are required to go all in with if you decide to give it a try. You can create a classroom Twitter account for just one project to begin with. If it goes well, you can always create additional accounts for other projects, or decide to create one main account that you use for all projects.

For those of you who are already using social media, I would love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. How are you using social media in the classroom? Has it been successful? Do you have any tips for anyone just getting started?

If you haven’t started yet, what are some ideas on how you may use it in the future?

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About Jason Carroll

Jason first learned of Assistive Technology while working on his undergraduate degree where much of his spare time was spent assisting a regional education centre with basic technology needs. Amazed at how this technology could benefit so many students (particularly those he grew up with) he was hooked and immediately became an expert at the centre. After receiving his Masters, Jason returned to the coop to serve as a full time Assistive Technology Consultant serving over 200 schools in the central Kentucky Region.

Since this time, Jason has trained thousands on Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning concepts throughout the United States and beyond. His focus is on integrating research based practices into the work he does and helping others ensure that what they are doing works. He specialises in assisting people to bridge the gap between operation of technology and actual implementation. Jason is a published author, has taught Instructional Technology and Universal Design for Learning at the University level, and spends a significant amount of time on e-Learning and blended learning initiatives. He is a graduate of the Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program (ATACP) from California State University at Northridge and holds a Masters in Business Administration.

Currently Jason serves as Product Marketing Manager for North America at Texthelp Inc. where he oversees new product launches and speaks nationally on a variety of Assistive Technology topics.

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