To be literate in today’s high-tech society, involves understanding the new ways people are accessing and sharing information. While there is a lot of trivial and obscene content found on social media, used correctly it can be used to help people gain instant access to important news, information, and ideas.
It seems social media is here to stay and our students will be at a disadvantage if they do not learn how to to use it responsibly. Instead of chalking it up to a distraction, or one of those things that “kids” do – is it not our responsibility to help them leverage social media as a tool for learning? How can we teach students to be good digital citizens if we don’t allow them to practice the behaviors of digital citizens?
One way to approach this is to think about the results of a google search. If someone were to google your name, would they hire you? The answer to this question isn’t JUST about avoiding posting irresponsible and obscene content; it’s also about creating a digital presence that helps you get hired. One could argue that having no digital presence is a disadvantage in a competitive job market. How can we help teach students to create a digital footprint that is beneficial to them?
My goal today is to share a few ways teachers can help students begin to use the forces of social media, specifically Twitter, for good rather than evil.
Before we begin here are a few important definitions:
To get some content for your news feed, get following some people. You can follow as many or as few accounts as you want, but if you want to follow a lot of people, you can categories them by putting them into lists – just select lists from your profile page to set one up.
The Twitter search bar is pretty powerful, and is a good starting point for finding people. Once you are following ten or so people, Twitter will start to offer you suggestions of people to follow along the themes of the people who you have followed. Once you are following someone, you will receive every tweet that they post into your news feed.
Some of the people who you follow may follow you back, but not always (celebrities or businesses probably won’t). As a general rule, following back is considered Twitter etiquette unless they are completely irrelevant to you!
A follower is someone who will receive all of the tweets that you send out. If one of your followers re-tweets your message (i.e. shares your message) then all of their followers will see the message too – this is how tweets can go ‘viral’!
To enable people to follow particular subjects, people tweet using a hashtag. For example, if you wanted to spread your message about LinkedIn, you would just put ‘#LinkedIn’ in your tweet – then, someone who uses the Twitter search bar to search for ‘LinkedIn’ will see your message. They are a good way of following and contributing to a particular subject.
- Creating Hash-Tags for learning communities to share ideas and resources and celebrate successes. #oklaed is a great example of this!
- Teacher tweets one thing a day about what students are learning in class using school #hashtag (#PCOed). This gives other teachers and parents a brief glimpse into some of the cool things students are learning about.
- Teachers upload brief demonstration videos that address common student misconceptions.
- Teachers can use twitter as an easy way to share articles or other important links with students using classroom #hashtags.
- Students summarize learning using classroom #hashtag.
- Students upload video asking school related questions, summarizing learning, or demonstrating mastery of a skill using class #hashtag.
- Admin can share great things going on all over the building using school-wide #hashtag.
- Get feedback on your ideas. Putting ideas on twitter gives you access to a real-world audience – especially when using a relevant #hashtag.
- By training students how to use social media, we can insure that they are not avoiding a digital footprint, but creating a positive digital footprint.
- Using twitter can help connect you with a network of like-minded colleagues, experts, and others who can help answer your questions or provide you with feedback on your ideas.
- Connect with parents. Share good news, important dates, and timely study tips.
- Participate and/or lead Twitter chats. Where a moderator leads like-minded colleagues set a day and time to answer questions on a given topic for about an hour. #oklaed hosts a twitter chat every Sunday evening at 8:00.
- Allow students to tweet important points or questions during your lecture.
- Live tweet a text. Students reading a text tweet their reactions, comments, questions, using a certain #hashtag.
- Extend learning outside of school hours by hosting Q&A sessions or encouraging students to ask each other ?’s using classroom #hashtag.
I understand that many teachers are not comfortable with Twitter and would rather avoid using social media altogether – and for good reason. I understand this perspective, but feel ignoring the issue altogether does little to help train students how to create a positive, and professional digital footprint. I am not advocating that we replace what we are doing in-class with online activities. I am simply advocating that we find ways to supplement our in class instruction using social media.
I don’t think Twitter – or any social media should necessarily be a required assignment. Simply providing students with the option of sharing their class-related ideas on social media can help them practice how to use social media responsibly. Modeling and reinforcing effective digital citizenship is how we can teach them to use social media as a tool. Knowing they will have teachers, and other professional as an audience may be enough to convince them to think a little before tweeting.
If managed well, allowing the option for students to use social media during class may have the additional benefit of cell phones transforming from a constant distraction to a tool that students are using to learn. Using social media might be just the thing to engage those students that crave attention; the difference is that we are managing the content they post, so that they receive attention for the right things. Every student is different and if technology is the piece that will engage some of our learners, than we should find ways to take advantage of it.