Education Is Social Media

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” — Bill Gates

In 2007, teachers in schools across the country would take the first day of class to go over the rules of the classroom. High school through into college, all tracking through syllabi discussing plagiarism, cheating, midterms, even how many times you could be absent, but one thing that became a new golden standard in the classroom regulatory handbooks was the No texting during class or your phone is taken away policies. Texting had created this constancy to cell phone usage and parents, in all their new paranoid glory were not helping that usage inside schools. A simple solution nonetheless though: Use it and lose it. That was just a remedy to text messaging though, and here we are ten years on with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, web browsing, and a myriad of other distractions that exist on the growing landscape of the smartphone UI.

According to usage statistics gathered by Ofcom, 66% of all adults aged 16+ have a profile on at least one social networking site, and though the report doesn’t break down these figures by age group. That’s a lot of distracted minds in a classroom of any size, and with teachers powers to control classroom behaviors being siphoned from them, it brings the question up of how do teachers use social media in their classrooms to amplify their lessons instead of distracting from them?

According to a study by Public Agenda, nearly half (49%) of teachers complain that they have been accused of unfairly disciplining a student, while more than half (55%) say that districts cause discipline problems by actively backing down from assertive parents, and this has only gotten worse with a youth culture obsessed with trying to set-up and film their teachers in inappropriate ways for the sake of entertainment or malice. It is becoming entrapment to show up to class when the bell rings for many teachers unless they learn to incorporate the problem of social media into the solution.

Some of the ways in which teachers are actively combating these issues are with an education of Social Media Etiquette and Literacy, using Facebook Groups and other social group messaging for projects, and creating content in-class that is useable on social media platforms. With these various methods and a general acceptance of phones being out in the classroom from here-on-out — teachers can better fit the shape of the times we are in currently.

Social Media Etiquette:

Just like many kids once took classes in general etiquette or financial math — education in social media literacy is becoming a crucial tool for the youngest generations. We now have a decade of experience with the right and wrongs of using social media — that trial-and-error was the best insights that MySpace gave us in 2005. It is just as important to know the significance of your online presence, as it is to know how to pay your taxes. Arguably doing either one wrong can significantly decrease the quality of your life, and both are tied to connecting with other people online (Click here for a referral discount on your taxes). When 25% of colleges include your social and digital footprints in application considerations, over 75% of employers, and over 33% of both cite social presence as an ultimate deterrent to selecting candidates — this is a real problem that teachers can creatively help solve.

Using Social Apps in Class:

Using Twitter Lists, Facebook Groups, Slack communication, and other software applications through social media like these is becoming a great resource for teachers to continue to engage their students, even outside of the classroom. Adding a level of community, while servicing to them a skill set that will definitely be continued into professional environments is a no-brainer in the classroom. It can build new friendships, foster participation and thoughts about the class even at home and away from the classroom. To get students engaged with others outside their “social network” per say, and to get them interested beyond the ninety minutes they are inside the classroom creates a wholistic approach to learning that is invaluable in the real world.

Making Usable Content:

This might be my favorite way to utilize social media in a classroom environment. With a climate and culture that puts such heavy emphasis on personal brands and social media clout — to present educational resources in a masked content approach allows students to actively apply new knowledge and insights into something that matters to them. We have seen this approach outside of the classroom work wonderfully in bringing awareness to social issues (e.g. the Fearless Girl statue in NYC), and we continue to see engagement in political issues rise with the use of social media live streaming or YouTube content. There is no reason that using these resources inside the classroom, as a way to directly benefit the students in a tangible way should not be considered as a viable approach to a new generation of pedagogical tools. It even has the potential to increase the education of people beyond just the classroom, so it is truly a win-win for education.

When it is all said and done, teachers only have one bell ring to the next to influence our youngest generations, and to attempt to forgo the largest influence in the room will only continue to alienate students from receiving the education they need from our institutions. Social media should not be a one-way ticket to detention or suspension but should be revered as a way to reinvigorate the interest of students. A way to create new discussions and build new bridges, a way to fire new neurons, and to grow the baseline of expectations in our classrooms. Social media can help make the coming generations smarter if we get smart about it first.

-- JCL

Works Cited:
Active, BBC. “How Social Media Is Changing Education.” Social Media in Education: How Social Media Is Changing Education. BBC Active, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 01 May 2017.
Vogel, Sona. Teaching Interrupted: Do Discipline Policies in Today’s Public Schools Foster the Common Good? New York, NY: Public Agenda, 2004. Public Agenda. Public Agenda, 1 May 2004. Web. 1 May 2017.