Where do students spend their time outside of school? Engagement is a key component of learning, so what better way to engage students than by implementing the social media platforms they already love to use?
Students spend much of their lives outside of school interacting on social media. Instead of looking at this reality as a detriment, teachers can look at it as a chance to implement some creative teaching techniques. Three of the most popular social media platforms among students are Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. How can you use these platforms in your classroom, and how can you do so safely?
Since Snapchat is a newer social media platform, you may not be as familiar with it as Facebook and Twitter. Here’s a snapshot of how Snapchat works.
- Send pictures and videos called “snaps” to your friends from your mobile device.
- Link snaps together to create a story.
- Watch as snaps disappear after a few seconds.
Using disappearing content for learning may seem counter intuitive, but research shows that the average human attention span is about 8 seconds, so a 10-second snap is just long enough to grab a students’ attention.
Younger students may not have their own accounts and no matter what age group you teach, you’ll want to encourage safe use. Here are a couple approaches to try in your classroom. Use a tablet and have the class gather in a circle to see the snaps.
- Shoutout: Coordinate ahead of time with a friend or fellow teacher to snapchat with you during class about a topic you’re covering. Are you teaching kindergarteners about colors? Have your helper snapchat you objects with those colors and ask students to shout out the colors. The time limit will make students think and respond quickly before the picture disappears.
- Field Trip: Is your colleague taking her class to a history museum for a field trip? Ask her to snapchat you pictures of some exhibits to show to your social studies class. Depending on how much you plan ahead, you can prepare questions about each snap for students to answer aloud or jot down quickly as an engagement exercise.
Middle and high school students may have their own Snapchat accounts. Depending on your/your school’s policies, you can allow them to use their accounts for class. Divide your class into groups and ask each group to come up with a snap story about the day’s topic for you to review at the end of class. You could have students send it to your Snapchat account or have them show it to you on their own devices.
Twitter, the microblogging platform overloaded with hashtags, may seem too overwhelming for students, but you can do some digging during your lesson prep time for Twitter feeds to show in your class. Unlike snaps, tweets remain posted unless the user deletes them, so you can pull up the same tweet over multiple days if you need to.
For younger students, control Twitter exposure and use in the same way as Snapchat. Display appropriate tweets from your own account. Use kid-friendly Twitter feeds like those by NASA, Discovery Channel, Science Channel, and Library of Congress. These feeds often tweet interesting facts, videos, and photographs that you can easily display during your class. Here are a few ideas.
- Writing Prompt: Find a tweet of a photograph or illustration to show to the class. Ask students to write a story or opinion about what they see.
- Discussion: If you have your own Twitter account, coordinate with another teacher to have a Twitter conversation about the book your students are reading or a topic you’re covering. You can include questions, quotes, and inferences to use as models or prompts. Ask students who have their own Twitter accounts to reply and participate in the thread. Create a hashtag for your class and ask students to tweet using that hashtag.
- Guessing Game: If you have Twitter, ask your followers to tweet you pictures of animals, plants, historical figures, or whatever you’re covering in class without any commentary. Then, show the images to your class and have them guess what or who is in the picture.
- Research: Allow older students to search through hashtags about current events to help them write an opinion essay. Ask them to reflect on the opinions they found on Twitter and whether those opinions were expressed respectfully or disrespectfully.
Because Facebook’s age limit is 13, elementary schoolers won’t have their own accounts. However, middle and high schoolers might. Create a closed Facebook group for your class and use it throughout the year to have students complete homework assignments. Here are a couple ideas.
- Source Share: If you’re a history teacher, ask students to research a primary or secondary source online about U.S. presidents and post them to the Facebook group with a paragraph explaining one thing they learned from the source. You can also ask students to comment on their classmates’ sources.
- Point Counterpoint: Post a prompt and ask students to form an opinion and respond. Encourage them to “like” their classmates’ answers and complement each other when they make good, respectful arguments.
- Selfie Show and Tell: Are you taking your class on a field trip? Ask them to take selfies with their favorite exhibit or monument. Then, tell them to post the pictures to the class Facebook group and write about why that exhibit or monument is their favorite.
Social media is a powerful, pervasive, and sometimes intimidating tool, but setting boundaries and planning ahead can help you and your students enjoy learning while staying safe. As with any other tool, remember to use and evaluate social media in light of the objectives your students need to meet.