In the wake of the recent Facebook drama in Missouri, you’re probably hesitant to use any form of social media in your classroom. Even if you’re confident in your ability to use it wisely and appropriately, risking your career for the sake of technology probably isn’t something you should take lightly. Luckily there are a few ways that teachers can still implement social media as part of their curriculum and avoid the slippery slope of teacher-student online connections. Here are 7 tips for teachers to successfully and appropriately utilize social media to facilitate learning in the classroom.
1. Set Clear Boundaries
Before you go through your class list and friend all of your students on Facebook, check your school handbook and familiarize yourself with the social media policy. Chances are there are rules already in place regarding teacher-student relations on social media networks. In order to make sure you stay compliant, review these rules and discuss them with your students so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding down the road.
2. Make Yourself Accessible
As a student there’s nothing worse than getting home from school and realizing you don’t quite understand the homework assignment. It used to be you were faced with a dilemma; do you attempt the assignment, risking the possibility of doing it all wrong and getting a bad grade, or do you call the teacher at home if you were so luck as to get a phone number? Connecting with your students via social networks eliminates this dilemma for your students. Use social media to post assignments online or make yourself available for a specified window of time after school that students can send you messages if they have questions about homework.
3. Foster Discussions
Use features like your Facebook wall or comment section of your blog as a discussion board. This is the perfect alternative for in-class discussions, especially for the introverted students out there who don’t feel comfortable voicing their opinions in front of their peers. Designate a window of time where students can log in and hold a class discussion online. Make sure you set ground rules and expectations at the beginning and monitor the discussion throughout.
4. Make a Facebook Fanpage
As I already alluded to, Facebook is one of the more controversial social media networks with respect to teacher/student interaction. The personal nature of this network makes it hard to differentiate between friend and authority figure. One way to circumvent mixed signals or inappropriate contact is to set up a Facebook fanpage.
By creating a fanpage you can avoid private interaction with students. As the administrator of a fanpage there are no private message capabilities between you and your students, only public messages which are displayed on the wall. Additionally, the fact that you can’t ‘friend’ someone as a fanpage eliminates any unintentional special treatment to certain students. In effect, students can ‘opt-in’ by liking your fanpage in order to get your updates but they don’t necessarily have to ‘like’ you or become a fan in order to see your fanpage.
5. Engage with Students through Edmodo
If you still don’t like the idea of Facebooking with your students, there are close alternatives such as Edmodo. Edmodo functions like a regular social network but there are more security features that make it considerably ‘safer’ than Facebook. For example, the network is limited to teachers, students, and parents of students. Plus, the network has tons of helpful tools for teachers, including communication, assignments, and grading features.
6. Create a Multimedia Classroom with Video
YouTube has become a very popular means of incorporating multimedia into the classroom. However, with YouTube there is a risk of students coming across inappropriate content, which is why the site is blocked by most school servers. TeacherTube however is a great alternative to YouTube. It was created by teachers and for teachers to use in the classroom. All of the content has been approved and is monitored to ensure nothing inappropriate sneaks into your classroom.
Blogging is a great supplement to your lectures and allows you to stay connected with your students outside of the classroom. Many teachers are also incorporating blogging into their curriculum by blogging assignments that require students to create and maintain a blog. Edublogs is a blogging platform that is exclusively meant for educators and students. There are endless possibilities when it comes to blogging in the classroom, some of which include project collaboration, journaling, discussion, and creative writing. The great thing about classroom-only blog platforms is that they can be made private so that only people within the class can view the blog.
Even though the mainstream social media networks have gotten a bad wrap in the classroom lately, there are plenty of networks out there that are strictly meant for educational purposes. With technology becoming a larger part of society especially among the youth, it is becoming more important to incorporate into the classroom in order to relate to students and keep them engaged.