Teacher Voices: This article is part of a series of from-the-classroom perspectives.
Think about the last time you waited in line for anything. What do you remember about everyone else queuing? In these situations, it seems that most everyone -- including myself -- is scrolling on a device. I thought about this recently as I was in the teachers' lounge, waiting for my first-day-of-school copies to finish printing.
For better or worse, many of us spend our idle minutes scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to see what’s happening in the world. We’ve learned how to curate what we see on social media to match our needs and interests. On Twitter and Facebook, I follow some incredible educators who share innovative ideas and stories from their classrooms. On Instagram, I follow teachers, food bloggers, friends, and some of my favorite celebrities.
By sharing classroom stories on social media, we can shine a positive light on the work of students and teachers.
Of course, most of our students have this almost ubiquitous access to media, too, and they use it to connect constantly. Whether it’s maintaining their latest Snapchat Streak or adding to their Instagram story, students are constantly opening up their lives. But it’s often without any real mentorship about how to share appropriately or shape the narratives they want to project.
This makes me wonder: What if teachers use social media to share stories of the classroom -- to share student works in progress, successes, joys, and failures? In doing so, we can shine a positive light on the work of students and teachers. On top of that, we can model positive digital citizenship and connect with our school communities on social media -- a place where families are already looking for news and information.
Bringing social media into our classrooms may sound daunting. Many schools have policies against students accessing social media during class hours; others have policies that restrict teachers’ use. But employing social media for learning can nonetheless be a worthy endeavor. Highlighting the great work happening in our classrooms and meeting and engaging students and parents where they already are -- online -- is a great approach to model positive digital citizenship.
Here are three ways using social media in your classroom can benefit students' learning.
Shine a Spotlight on Learning
Classroom social media accounts help us reclaim the narrative of our classes and schools, as well as shine a positive light on the amazing work of students and teachers. News media, politicians, and even people in our communities are all too often quick to jump on the next negative story about our schools.
By documenting and sharing the work of students and teachers, we have an opportunity to offer our own narrative with real stories on the positive happenings in our classrooms. As teachers, we’re the best PR team for our schools and students, and we can use social media to our advantage with this. Consider going to Twitter or Instagram to highlight students’ work. You can tag notable authors, artists, scientists, and other important figures who have inspired your students in your posts. You’d be amazed at who might respond!
Model Digital Citizenship
Because many students lack mentorship in their personal social media sharing, we can use our classroom accounts to model digital citizenship skills and show students what a positive social media presence looks like. Ask students to help craft tweets before you post. Practicing this type of "micro-writing" allows students to see how changing just one word in a short post can alter impact and meaning. Over time, we can even scaffold this process so that students share the responsibility of managing classroom social media for a day, showing the world what they're accomplishing and determining the best way to document their learning.
Another part of modeling digital citizenship is ensuring that we're protecting our students' privacy. As you begin to consider how best to use social media in your classroom, make sure you're abiding by CIPA and COPPA laws, and always ask for the guardian's permission to post. Sending home a permission letter at the start of the school year and making parents aware of how you plan to use social media will grow your audience of followers as well.
Engage Your Community
A classroom social media account doesn't have to be one more item on your already long teacher to-do list; rather, it can provide the opportunity to engage the community where they're going for news and information anyway. Consider how you might employ social media to replace a communication tool you're currently using.
Your class Twitter or Instagram story could replace a weekly newsletter sent home in a folder. According to a Pew Research Center study, 30 percent of Facebook users go to the site as their primary source of news. What's happening in your classroom is newsworthy! Leveraging social media can spread learning far beyond the four walls of your class and provide students with an authentic audience for their work.