Posted by: Navy Teacher | March 9, 2012

Should teachers use social media to engage their students in the classroom?

Assume that you are a teacher in a classroom that provides your students with access to the cyber world.  Assume that every one of your students has access to the internet outside the classroom as well.  Is that an unrealistic expectation?  I’m sure there was a poll taken somewhere that can provide some insight that can’t be applied to every school in the country.  For now, I would like you to assume that your students and classroom have access to the internet.

Should social media be part of a class’s curriculum?  What I mean is, should a teacher incorporate social media into the learning process for his/her students?  That should be an easy answer; this is the 21st century.  Students are tech-savvy; some have multiple paths (i.e. laptop, cell phone, iPad, Play Station 3, XBox, Play Station Portable) to access the internet.  As their (fake) teacher, you are obligated to teach to their strengths in your (fake) class.  A majority of Americans like to use social media to connect with other people.  You must use social media to effectively teach the students, right?

I believe that social media in the mythical classroom described above, can be and absolutely should be used as an education tool.  The teacher must be taught how to use social media in the classroom.  Before a teacher uses social media as a classroom tool, the teacher must teach his/her students to be effective citizens of the digital world.  It would be a huge mistake to assume that students know how to effectively use social media just because they have had their own Facebook page (for example) for years.  Social media provides opportunities galore to engage students and tap into their creativity.

Another factor to consider is the teacher must have permission from his/her administrators and also receive permission from the students’ parents/guardians prior to traveling down the digital road in the classroom.  A teacher’s livelihood could depend upon it.  If a parent/guardian is not comfortable with their child participating in a teacher’s classroom wiki page then that student cannot participate.  The teacher will have to create an alternate assignment for that student.  I love being an American.  I thoroughly enjoyed my years defending America’s honor while I wore the nation’s cloth.  Unfortunately, there is a serious issue that continues to grow in these great United States.  We live in a litigious society where it’s acceptable for someone to file a class action lawsuit because he doesn’t like paying extra for food at the movie theater.  What’s next, will someone try to sue Mickey Mouse because he charges too much for an ice cream bar at Magic Kingdom?  OK, I’m stepping off my anti-litigious society soapbox.

Bottom line – I believe that social media is a tremendous tool that should be used to engage students who have access to the digital world.  However, there has to be guidelines in place that include administrator and parent/guardian approval.  I would highly discourage teachers from ‘friending’ their students on Facebook.  Oh, and don’t be one of those teachers who uses social media to vent about a frustrating day in the classroom.  There is a good chance that you could be fired.

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