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Social Media: An Asset in the Classroom

From Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat, today’s students are more connected through social media platforms than ever before. Not only that, parents are connected there as well. Yet studies show that teachers have been slow to incorporate social media as an educational technology platform in the classroom.

Many adults think social media will be a distraction rather than a tool in the classroom. This has been found inaccurate when teachers are knowledgeable about how to use it. For many teachers, the reluctance to integrate social media comes down to two questions: How do I integrate social media into my classroom while focusing on standards, and how do I ensure the students are responsible digital citizens? Loyola's Educational Technology graduate program is designed to help teachers learn safe and effective ways to use educational technology, like social media, in the classroom.

“I really like social media in the classroom to connect my students with other learners and teachers around the world,” says Irene Bal, a lecturer in the educational technology program. “Social media is also a really great tool to connect with parents, especially at the K-12 level, because the parents are on social media. It helps gets the word out and to share things like pictures and classroom updates.”

Social media in the classroom is beneficial for:

  • Promotion – social media platforms are great to showcase student work, promote special events/programs, and acknowledge student awards
  • Extended Learning – teachers can use social media to share blog posts or articles to extend student learning beyond the prescribed reading in the curriculum
  • Creating Connections – social media is an invaluable way to keep connected with parents, and to connect students with educators, experts, and other students outside of their physical classroom and school
  • Digital Citizenship – the best way for students to understand the best practices of how to use social media responsibly is through experiential learning under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher

Bal suggests that teachers be very clear about their goals before starting to use social media in the classroom. “Some teachers do this because it’s the fad thing but the purpose is important,” says Bal.

“The biggest question is: Why?” she continues. “Why do you want to integrate social media into your classroom? And then beyond the why, how will you use it? To share resources? To host chats? To connect your students to other students? You need to be specific about what activities, standards, and content will be tied to your social media activities.”

Teachers also want to protect their students and themselves while they are online. Many social media platforms have built-in safeguards, but the key to successful use of social media in the classroom is monitoring. Whether a teacher uses social media to post homework or facilitate group discussions, monitoring the information posted by students and other users and having classroom discussions around digital citizenship is necessary. Before jumping into social media, all teachers must know their school and district’s educational technology and social media policies and ensure they are following the regulations outlined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.