Saturday, December 28, 2013

Using Social Media in the Classroom: Like, OMG - Social Media Can Be Educational?

Each year, students seem to become more invested in social media platforms.  With smart phones and unlimited access to the Internet, they are sharing, posting, favoriting, and retweeting in record numbers.  While students have a great knowledge of how to maneuver through these platforms for social purposes, they often do not realize the implications of their digital footprints or that these platforms can be used for professional purposes.  Teaching them to be positive digital citizens needs to be part of the curriculum, and with Chromebooks in hand every day, I have found many teachable moments to reinforce these ideas with them.  For example, showing students how to access the revision history on a Google Doc and how each person's name is attached to his or her contribution can be an eye-opening experience for a sophomore in high school.  Encouraging them to Google their names at random too can create interesting conversations and generate funny pictures that will hopefully make them smarter and savvier posters in the future.

During my first semester with Chromebooks, I have wanted to create experiences that mimic how students share and post on social media, and I wanted to teach them that these social media platforms can be used for academic purposes.  Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other platforms can lead to job opportunities in the future.  When the high school students of today enter the workforce, they will be expected to be savvy consumers and more importantly, creators of content.  Their digital presences will be taken into account, and it will be a critical tool in evaluating whether or not they are hired by prospective companies.

Here are a few websites and activities that I have tried to utilize to start these important conversations about being critical creators of content online.  There are so many more activities that I hope to tap into next semester, but this was a start!


TodaysMeet is a real-time backchannel that mimics a Twitter feed.  Without having to create an account, students access the backchannel created by the teacher to converse in a variety of ways.  The creator of the backchannel can control how long it is available (for as little as one hour or as long as one year).  Then the URL is posted, students create usernames for the session, and they begin sharing.  URLs and outside content can be posted into the chat, which can be downloaded and saved as a PDF for assessment or reference purposes. This resource is very user-friendly, and kids enjoy it.

I have used TodaysMeet while watching documentaries in class.  This way, students can concentrate on the video and share their thoughts while watching.  I would pose a question to students, and they would type.  I find this type of activity to be more beneficial than a fill-in-the black worksheet that students may fill out during a class video.  While I enjoy doing this activity, it did take some coaching.  Initially kids wanted to post silly comments, but I make kids use their full names and give them participation credit which curbs their desire to fill the feed with goofiness.  Also, giving them a minute or two while setting up the video can allow them to get their goofy comments out.  Like with any online activity, the novelty wears off, and they learn to get down to business with familiarity.


While I have not used Blogger as much as I would like, I have completed a few activities with it.  Students do enjoy posting online and sharing their thoughts.  Writing for real-world audiences is an important part of the new Common Core State Standards and is a motivating factor for improving and increasing the level at which students write. With an emphasis on technology, these standards require that students "use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products" with the hope that they will receive continuous feedback and gain new understanding of information (CCSS).

I have used Blogger as an online discussion board for both my sophomores and seniors.  When I post questions online, students can post responses and then comment on other people's responses.  I can also post YouTube videos or articles online that students can then read and comment upon.  Also, I have used it as a place for students to post their own daily work.  When completing these activities students are actively engaged, providing their own thoughts, and reading the thoughts of others.  As the semester went on, I found the results and quality of writing improved.  Again, this does take coaching.  Sometimes when students write online, they write quickly and forget to think about conventional grammar rules.  Talking about the fact that their posts are essential permanent does cause students to pause before hitting post.



Now that students have access to  YouTube accounts through their school email, I have encouraged them to create more videos to pair with presentations.  When video creation is as easy as taking out one's smart phone, filming for a few minutes, and editing in the cloud using WeVideo or other platforms on a device (such as iMovie), then they should be encouraged to utilize these technologies.  Students are highly motivated when it comes to making videos; they find it fun.  When given assignments to make them, not only are they utilizing technology, but they are also demonstrating their knowledge in a creative and collaborative way.

Recently, I just finished the Divergent unit with my sophomores.  During the summative portion of the unit, students took an objective test, completed a written assessment, and created multimedia presentations that persuaded individuals to join specific factions.  The Faction Propaganda Project asked students to determine why people should join the factions they chose at the beginning of the novel, write a newspaper article, create a digital poster, and produce a short video.  Students were also encouraged to share their work via social media, thus creating incentive to make stronger presentations and excitement around a class project.   Students enjoyed this project and with only a short amount of time to work on this, they results were solid.  This project not only encouraged them to make connections to the book; it also encouraged them to collaborate, create, and share their work with the world online and through an engaging and interactive class presentation.

Classroom Hashtags

In addition to specific online platforms, I have also tried to model positive and professional digital interactions through my own use of Twitter.  I have two accounts (one personal and one that I use directly with students). In my senior classes, I use specific hashtags to share out content, send reminders, and make real-world connections with students.  With the #CGSpeech and #CGMedia, I have directly tweeted a few students, post information about class, and try to demonstrate how to use Twitter to research during the gender unit of each of these courses.  I also co-use the #CGSpeech with the Speech Team. While students don't often use the hashtag themselves, they do check it. When I specifically tell them that I'll be tweeting articles that would be beneficially for a research paper or project, they will access those resources.  Yes, social media can be used for educational purposes.  The more we model that to students, the more likely they are to use that for these purposes.

Other resources that mimic social media experiences:

Tweets by @Steph_SMac