Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Benefits of social media in the classroom

What are the benefits of using social media in the classroom? What are the risks and challenges? How do teachers ensure a positive, equitable, accepting and safe learning environment? What other factors should teachers consider when planning for instruction that integrates social media? 

I am a firm believer of using social media in the classroom.  It is not only easy to get information to the students quicker, but it teaches them to practice proper use of social media.  
There are many risks if social media is not used properly.  Students are quite young to understand long term effects of using social media inappropriately.  Even we as teachers are unsure exactly how posting inappropriate things on any website might reflect on a child's future.  Students can do something silly and that one mistake can/might have a negative impact on future job prospects or might get them suspended for cyber bullying etc.  What I try to do in my classroom, is model how to use social media for my profession and hopefully students will see that I too follow the rules of the school.  I allow students to follow me on Twitter and Instagram.  I do not post personal things, only professional ones therefore students will not be shocked or infringing on my privacy.  It also means for the most part, that they don't keep searching for my other accounts.  If you limit students from your accounts, they will be more motivated to hack in or try to find a loop hole to see what you post anyway. In addition, how will students know what to model if they don't have one to watch?
If a student does follow me, I always make sure I cannot access their accounts or that there are no aspects of their privacy that is public.  I did an experiment a couple years ago where I found one student's Facebook profile which was public and from hers, I accessed 12 other students who did not have their profiles public.  I showed students that just because they were private, it didn't mean people couldn't find them.  They were very scared by this and that night each and everyone of them either added privacy to their accounts or deleted them.  These are also aspects that parents don't necessarily know about or test out.  

Going back to social media in the classroom, students create their accounts without their names and they input their profile information on a shared google doc.  I use blogger for students to share their writing and so we practice what descriptive and positive feedback looks like.  Since I know their profile information, I can see what is being written and cross reference who wrote it.  If a comment is near crossing the line, I address it to the student.  I explain how verbal communication has many other factors in finding meaning (body language, intonation etc) where as typing is harder to understand tone and therefore could be taken a different way from the original meaning.  

I think its important to have a plan B when using social media sites because there are always unforeseeable things that come up so its better to have a back up plan in case your lesson doesn't go as planned.