Social media is an interlinked network for exchanging information and data. It is a forum that has a wide global presence. At present, about 3 billion people are perpetually connected through it. It is the fastest form of mass media and has shown its influence in practically every field. On a broader level, social media can be used more effectively. People have tagged it as a tool for entertainment purposes only. However, its dynamic user demographic makes it an effective means of exchanging ideas and supporting learning too.
Social Media as a Tool for Learning
Although most teachers would criticize the use of social media in the classroom environment, they need to consider the other aspects of its utility. As a majority of students communicate more through social media platforms, instead of face-to-face conversations, teachers can effectively use this as a learning tool. Here are some ways in which educators can use social media as a tool for learning:
Teachers can first teach their students social media etiquette, also known as netiquette, to prevent them from misusing these platforms and use them as a tool for learning.
Teachers can also create a Facebook group that includes the students of an entire classroom. These groups can be used to hold group discussions or forums so that students can put their views productively. This makes every student feel they are heard, and that their opinion matters, which is great for developing confidence.
Teachers can also send e-invitations to guest speakers who can impart education to the students through their expertise and inspire them to be better learners.
Teachers may also create educational podcasts and create a YouTube channel where they upload relevant videos for students. These videos may include textbook lessons and interactive discussions so that students can experience a classroom environment online.
Teachers can also hold photography contests on image-sharing social media platforms such as Instagram and Flickr. For example, students can be assigned the task of uploading pictures that are related to their lessons – Biology students can be tasked with identifying at least 10 unique flora in their neighborhood and uploading their pictures online.
Using Social Media as an Effective Teaching Tool
There is a spark of creativity in every student. Also, people are always eager to showcase their talent on social media. Social media also acts as an inspiration to millions of young followers who engage in it because of its wide reach. Teachers can use social media as a teaching tool in a variety of ways.
Connecting lessons with pop culture references. Students feel connected to social media because they recognize pop-culture references present on the internet. This has applications as a learning tool. For instance, a teacher can refer to famous personalities of the past and link them to the present. For example – “How would the famous English physicist Isaac Newton have interacted with Facebook?”, or “How would have Einstein reacted if he saw memes relating to him present on social networking sites?”
Showing famous artworks online and asking students’ opinions. Most students on the internet have the mentality of a critic. It is the job of teachers to expand their students’ scope of knowledge and help them grow intellectually. They should also help students express their personal opinions on art and creativity.
Inspiring students by identifying role models. In a world where the young generation cannot imagine a life without social media, these platforms indeed act as a motivating factor for students to perform many activities. Teachers can find online profiles of people that are inspiring and introduce them to their students. This will motivate them to become more ambitious and to be more like their role models.
Helping students to create their personal brand online. According to a 2013 research and survey by Baker, graduating students have an edge in the job market if they create their brand through social media profiles. These describe who they are as a person and what they want to accomplish. This helps them build connections and relationships in the real world (through pictures, blogs, videos shared online). So, teachers can also help students build a public profile on social media platforms to become more easily discoverable.
Social Media Platforms Aiding Learning
To use social media as an effective learning tool, teachers must find ways to make students learn on these platforms and use them productively. Various social media platforms can be used in a variety of ways, for example:
YouTube: YouTube is arguably the biggest video-sharing platform in the world. Here, teachers can record their lessons as videos, or they can record a power-point presentation with a voiceover. Students can then access these lessons whenever they need them.
Facebook: Teachers can create a Facebook group that contains all the students of a classroom and discuss a particular topic for the week in the group, such as Create a group – “Photosynthesis”, where all the students from the Biology class are present. The students can then use this platform for debate and information sharing.
Blogging: Teachers can also encourage students to create a blog about a subject where they can post what they have learned in the classroom and discuss it with others.
Social media should be used to encourage students to hone their creativity and to teach them that no matter what their skill set is, they can be creative and expressive. These platforms are capable of holding intellectual discussions where students can grow and also make their skills and talents discoverable to the world.