Ooooooh, social media. The big bad wolf of the Internet and arch nemesis of the classroom teacher. I’m pretty sure the words social media just triggered a flashback of classrooms of days past filled with kids glued to Facebook or snickering from the last Snapchat they just opened; those kids totally weren’t laughing at your witty commentary during your latest book talk, but of a meme their friend just DM’d them. Legend says that if you stand in front of a mirror at midnight and chant social media three times, an rabid teacher will appear in the mirror, confiscate your phone to the “phone basket”, and give you the stink eye for a solid three minutes.
Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment, though; what if we teachers could use social media to our advantage? What if, instead of it being a distraction, we can use this platform to positively engage students in their learning both in and out of the classroom? Would that be such an impossible undertaking?
I’ll give the answer: it’s not.
In fact, social media is one of the easiest ways to pique interest and attention in the classroom, when done right. Out of the many (and by many I mean MANY…like hundreds of sites and programs are out there) apps available, I decided to set my sights on Instagram and what it could do in my classroom. Instagram is pretty straight forward; you take a picture, maybe slap a filter on it for good measure, add a caption and some hashtags, and WA-LAH! You’re done. It’s that easy, folks. So what can I do with such a simple app in my classes?
In doing a bit of research, I’d discovered I could do more with Instagram than I originally thought. For privacy reasons, I could make a class Instagram page and use only that–no student sign-ups required. They could each have the password and do posts from there. From that point, students can follow authors’ Instagram and check the newest and most popular literary hashtags for insight and inspiration on their own assignments. If they already have an account and are comfortable/have permission to use it for school, simply using a class hashtag when posting can link everyone’s posts together on that hashtag. A few of my personal favorites are posting photos of books they’ve been reading or their reading recommendations, posting “inspiration” photos that could serve as writing prompts, or finding photos that a character in a recently read book might post if they had an Instagram account to put in a collage. As the teacher you could also run a literary Instagram account where students can find your latest reads, recommendations, or inspirations and work from there.
These are just a few examples of what teachers could do with Instagram, let alone the hundreds of other popular apps like Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, or Wattpad. The neat thing is that all of these sites are most likely linked, so connecting your class Instagram to your class site or Twitter page is a simple as checking a box. For those who are wary of the privacy and content of the mainstream sites, although there are privacy options available (though I know students can get around these *source: being a student myself*), sites like Edmodo, LitPick, and EduBlogs work just as well.
Social media has spread faster than the flu during a school year, and it’s for good reason. People of every age are on it, and it’s becoming more common for teachers and schools to be in this demographic as well. Students already know how to use these sites, so integrating them into the classroom can be as easy as pie. You’ll have to monitor use and determine when it is and isn’t appropriate to use, but I think there’s quite a bit of good to be had in social media after all.
If we think of social media as simply a tool, perhaps we can take some of the fear and anxiety out of using this in the classroom. This is a learning experience for you and your class, and showing them you value and even encourage using social media networking in your class sets an immensely positive example. Maybe they can teach you a thing or two as well.
Happy reading (and networking), all.