Using Social Media as a Teaching Tool

After 18 years of teaching art in an elementary school I consider myself a veteran. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to teaching a good lesson or implementing meaningful curriculum. Don’t get me wrong there are some great new teachers but they will undoubtedly be better in 18 years. Somewhere along the line you realize, what works and what doesn’t work. Obviously you continue doing only what works. But then you wind up doing the same things over and over again. This is exactly where I found myself a year and a half ago. I realized, while I was introducing a new lesson to one of my classes, that it wasn’t NEW to me. I had been perfecting it for 18 years! I had become stagnant.

I thought about it and heard my fathers voice in my head, “if it aint broke then don’t fix it.” He was a teacher for 30 years and knew a thing or two about the profession. I knew my lessons didn’t need fixing but I also knew there had to be a way to tap into new resources so I wouldn’t die of boredom. I decided, since so much has changed since I graduated with my teaching degree, it would be a good idea to take classes that weren’t offered when I was in college. I was lucky enough to get onto some wonderful Media arts/social media classes. After all we are living in a digital era. My students are receiving information in a completely different way then they did when I started teaching.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned and how excited I am to bring it back to my classroom. (Well actually Art-Cart but that is a whole other blog) One of the most transformative of all my classes introduced me to a wide variety of social media platforms. Why is this relevant? I saw great potential for my students to use these platforms as a way to exchange ideas, share creativity, give and receive feedback on their artwork.

I have to admit it was very intimidating learning how to use new “Apps.” I didn’t even understand what some of them were for. Aside from Pintrest and Facebook I rarely ever went online. (OK I may also be addicted to Zulily as well!) The reality was, when it came to social media I knew close to nothing and I had to accept that my little millennial classmates were going to be schooling me!

I think it is this fear of looking stupid that prevents many older teachers from exploring the educational possibilities of social media. Luckily, the older I get, the less I care what people think. I was determined to learn what these Apps were for and when I put my pride aside I learned the best lesson of all. These social media platforms were for, what ever I wanted them to be for!

Once I became familiar with how to navigate through each app it became very clear just how beneficial using them with my students could be. Here are just a few ideas that I came up with.

I could start a private Facebook group and have the kids go live as they talk about their artwork and share thoughts on their creative process. Perhaps when we have our final critiques they can also be live so their parents can see how hard they have been working and how much they have learned. It’s a win-win. I get kids talking about their work and at the same time I get their parents involved. Parent engagement has been a big push and this is such a clever, fun way to do it. They get to be part of their child’s school day and they don’t even have to leave work!

Instagram is another brilliant way to get student work out there. I am going to set up the “Art Teachers Instagram” Parents and students can all see each other’s work. It can be like our own virtual gallery!

I am also planning on using medium.com to continue blogging. I have so many stories from all my years in the trenches. Medium is a perfect way for teachers to share their struggles and successes.

I can go on about how I plan to take advantage of all that social media has to offer in the classroom but what I really want people to walk away with, after reading this blog, is the fact that the options are limitless. Teachers should tap into to these new and exciting ways to share ideas and information. I am not saying they need to reinvent the wheel and change their whole curriculum but perhaps as the world changes around us we must reconsider how we deliver information.

If you are reading this and thinking, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” I am proof that you can!

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