Social Media in the Classroom

I recently had a discussion with an employee from Cisco about social media in the classroom.  He was really interested in what I do in my classroom and far I am willing to push my social media agenda with my students.  During his experience as an educational consultant, I got the impression that he is continually baffled why schools and teachers do not utilize social media tools as much as they should.  That conversation got me thinking about the tools I use in my classroom and how they have positively enhanced the classroom experience for myself and my students.  As of right now, I currently use the following social media tools on a regular basis in my classroom to stay connected with my students.

  1. Google Voice – Students can text me questions about HW, due dates, content, etc.
  2. Twitter – Students follow my class where I tweet reminders, interesting tidbits, etc.
  3. WordPress – Students regularly check my website to see updates, download missing work, and leave comments on assignments.
  4. TodaysMeet – Students meet in a chatroom at a regularly scheduled time to discuss the big events going on in our country (i.e. the Presidential debate)

Now some of you may say that not all of those are social media tools, but I consider any tool that opens lines of synchronous and asynchronous dialogues to a be a social media tool.  For the past 4 years, I have tried just about everything from edmodo to nings to try and find some tools that help give my classroom an interactive and interconnected feel.  I have finally narrowed my social media tools down to the four tools above that improve my classroom atmosphere the most.

Take a look at this infographic on student social media use provided by ASCD and notice the question at the top: “How can schools harness this social for learning, while attending to some persistent concerns?”

I think schools know there is a lot of value in social media tools, but they are afraid of the “persistent concerns” that continuously pop up with parents, administrators, and district leaders.  However, instead of trying to find ways to address the concerns and teach students how to use these tools appropriately, we have decided to block the tools altogether and just prevent students and teachers from using them in the classroom and as ways to stay connected with peers and their teachers.  I encourage teachers to embrace social media to create an interconnected classroom.  All teachers should try to find a few tools that they would want to use with their students, but teachers have to teach their students acceptable use of the tools they introduce to make sure to address the persistent concerns.