Social Media in Our Schools

Social media is given a bad name in today’s society mainly for distracting the newer generations from communicating face to face with others. Fortunately, not everyone feels that social media has a bad influence on students but can actually promote out of the box thinking and organization. Two of the people that believe that social media, if used properly can have a good influence on students are teachers at Fort Collins High School. The first individual interviewed is the principal, Mark Eversole who sheds light on how social media has been useful for keeping students connected and informed about school activities. The second person interviewed is a language arts teacher and creative works publication adviser, Erin O’Connor who talks about how social media can be used to help students organize and share notes during the school year. Below are answers given by Eversole and O’Connor regarding questions that some people may have about how social media should be used in the school system.

How would you personally define social media?

Eversole: I would define social media as websites/applications that enable users [to] share content/information in [a] social way[;] highly interactive.

O’Connor: I define the phrase social media as any electronic or web/app-based platform that allows users to connect, interact, collaborate, share, or view electronic content and communication with other users of the specific platform.

In your opinion, do you associate social media in the school system with a positive or a negative connotation and why?

Eversole: Both connotations; [it] depends on what the social media is used for. Fort Collins High School has a Facebook site to highlight activities and events that promote the great things going on within our school. Several site[s] on social media do just the opposite, tear people down or even bully others.

Do you believe that social media hinders or improves learning in the classroom and why?

O’Connor: I believe social media use in the classroom has the potential to improve learning by way of encouraging collaboration and providing avenues to seek outside feedback, perspective, and information. With the ubiquitous presence of portable electronic devices, teachers (including me) are starting to consider and experiment with the use of platforms and applications that in the recent past may have been looked upon as frivolous. I think that if we take risks and try new and innovative ways to approach learning with technology (including social media) and we do so purposefully and thoughtfully, we can effectively engage students and utilize familiar tools in perhaps an unfamiliar way to promote learning and especially collaboration and communication.

What kind of social media, if any, does Fort Collins High School use to encourage students to stay connected and up to date with school events?

Eversole: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter[;] several of our clubs and activities have their own accounts.

Do you encourage your English students to use social media to organize their school work? If so, what sites?

O’Connor: I do not use typical social media platforms in my classroom or with my English Language Arts students. I do use Google Classroom and other Google applications with my students. These applications and platforms do allow and encourage interactivity and collaboration among students and among students and teachers. Because I primarily teach 9th grade students, allowing them unstructured use of discussion boards and other social media applications and platforms often promotes non-academic, off-task behavior and communication. I use some of the sharing, collaboration, and discussion tools associated with Google platforms with my senior students to foster feedback and revision of original writing and digital creating. These students typically use these tools for the purpose I intended and firmly grasp the idea of using technology to share ideas and to provide feedback.

From these email interviews, it is clear that the so-called ‘typical’ social media platforms are more commonly used for clubs and after school activities and events. The type of social media that is used in the classrooms is more oriented toward keeping students organized and involved in group discussions involving what they are currently being taught in school. These interviews can’t tell you how to feel about social media in the classrooms, but it can give you one perspective. The real question is how much more social media use will we see in the education system 5 or 10 years from now?