As teachers, the pull of social media on your students attention will already be well known to you. The online world exerts a magnetic lure on the attention of young people today, offering community and information sharing, entertainment and gossip in ways that often pull students away from the blackboard. Understanding this dynamic, some educators are now bringing social media into the classroom in surprising ways. By working with something your students already enjoy and don’t, perhaps, associate with learning, there are opportunities for creative teaching, as well as making genuine connection with your students.
Facilitating Creative Uses of Technology
Massachusetts’ Burlington Public Schools has received a lot of attention in recent years for a progressive use of social media which has led to student and teacher run social media accounts updated daily with blogs and tweets for students, parents and teachers. The focus is on boosting student engagement with key topics, as well as connecting students with experts and real world examples. Students at Burlington Public Schools have reported increased levels of engagement with key educational topics as well as on overall enthusiasm for this new ways of learning.
BYOT: Bring your Own Technology
Rather than fighting students constant distractions via the Internet, some teachers are simply embracing the enemy. A simple Twitter feed projected onto a screen at the front of the class offers a “real-time” feed for student comments or questions. Students are each required to tweet at least one salient point during the seminar. Many teachers have noticed that this method allows the quieter members of the class to voice their thoughts without having to speak out loud, offering a useful tool for including lesser heard students. Ultimately, class participation rises and these so-called ‘backchannel’ talks always provide a useful record of a shared learning experience which can be accessed afterwards.
With the iPad now becoming one of the major digital teaching tools of choice, Apple’s superb iTunes U allows teachers a brilliant means of accessing and organising online educational tools. Using this App allows teachers to offer synchronised course notes and references for easy access, online books and presentations in multimedia formats, aswell as some 600,000 odd free public resources in including audio and video content from museums, universities and cultural institutions. Many teachers are finding iPad education a profound means of organising information sharing, with the days of students having left key texts at home now a think of the past! This is now the world’s largest online catalogue of free education content.
Make it Fun
Social Media, and the Internet at large, is a far more visual arena than the largely semantic world of the old fashioned classroom. Black and white script has given way to multimedia, with the end results being a more vibrant exciting experience for the student and one which appears to be boosting genuine interest and interaction. Great examples of how social media can be used to facilitate learning include literature teachers who have encouraged their students to create Facebook pages for their favourite fictional characters, using GPS treasure hunting via Twitter to send students in search of educational clues, and facilitating intercultural communication via blog link ups with foreign schools. Ultimately, students respond to having their interest and their sense of fun piqued: clever teachers emphasize this while allowing the learning to happen by itself.
About the Author
Andy Summers writes widely about teaching, as well as via the London based GSL Education here.