This year, during my first year teaching fifth grade, I was shocked to learn that many of my ten year old students were using social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. Initially, I was concerned. I felt like they were too young to be using them- let alone using them safely. However, I quickly realized that there was no end to this trend in sight. The presence of social media is here to stay. As educators, we need to work to ensure that the classroom is a place that “mirrors the online lives of the students so that the students will not be distracted from educational goals” (Levinson, p. 2, 2009). So, how do we make this a possibility?
In Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom, Frank Baker states that one of the benefits of media literacy education is that students can express or create their own messages through the use of different media tools. While some may balk at the idea, social media is a wonderful avenue to allow students to do this. Often teachers and parents are working to keep students off of these sites. However, by incorporating the use of social media in the classroom teachers can increase motivation and create learning experiences that students will find authentic.
There has been a plethora of research on the negative impact of social media on students, but not much on the positive effects. The Center for Media Literacy discusses the positives in their newsletter Connections, stating that “children can learn prosocial behavior from prosocial content and that effects are strongest when the behavior that is modeled is salient, clearly portrayed and can be easily incorporated into a child’s everyday interactions” (p. 3, 2013). Because students are already using social media, it’s the perfect avenue to use for moral development, empowerment and authentic learning experiences
In the video To Tweet or Not to Tweet, Marc-Andre Lalande describes the benefits of using Twitter in an educational setting. One of the things he mentions is that students could tweet questions and comments as the teacher is presenting. Students could also use Instagram to upload pictures of what is going on in the classroom to a shared account. Allowing students to create Facebook accounts representing the persona of a historical figure they are currently learning about is a great way to engage students. Additionally, they can use the accounts to interact with each other as the people may have in the past. When technology is available the possibilities are endless!
The question that remains is: How do we create a safe space in social media for students to use in the classroom?
Here are some great resources to check out to help you incorporate the use of social media in the classroom:
- Center for Media Literacy- Social Networking Newsletter
- “10 Teacher Tools to ‘Techify’ Your Classroom” Blog Post
Baker, F. (2012). Media literacy in the K-12 classroom. Washington DC: International Society for Technology in Education.
Center for Media Literacy. (2013). Theme: Media, Morals and Empowerment. Connections, 49, 2-7.
Levinson, M. (2009). Schools and Facebook: Moving Too Fast or Not Fast Enough. Connections, 6, 2-5.