BEING SOCIAL: HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN TRANSFORM YOUR SCHOOL CLASSROOMS
2/5/2013 By: By Cathy Swan
Most T&L readers know the value of social
media learning in schools, yet many remain
bound by restrictive policies and reluctance
from their school communities to embrace
these tools. A 2012 EdWeb survey on Web 2.0
tools by MMS Education and MCH Strategic
Data revealed that just 7% of educators say
they use social networks in the classroom.
|Educators are separating personal and professional social networking
|From A Survey of K-12 Educators on Social Networking, Online Communities, and Web 2.0 Tools 2012, conducted by MMS Education and sponsored by edWeb.net and MCH Strategic Data.
How can we change the minds of more
educators? Demonstrating best practices
can often be the best publicity tool for social
media. We can effectively use best practices to
show how these tools can be transformative
and foster creative student collaboration on a
global scale. Here are 12 ideas you can share
with your educators, administrators, and
parents to show just how students can benefit
from social networking.
1. COLLABORATE WITH GOOGLE APPS FOR EDUCATION.
Students learn to work as a team by
creating and sharing documents, slide sets,
spreadsheets, drawings, Web sites, maps,
blogs, and more. You can use the Revision
History feature to allow team members
and teachers to track how each student
contributed to a specific project. The
Comments function enables peer review
and teacher input. You can also invite other
classes, grades, and schools to participate
and allow your students to get real-world
experience by collaborating with invisible
partners. Our America at War and World
Interactions projects involve multiple sections
of students working together to document
our nation’s history of war and the rise and
expansion of world religions.
2. ESTABLISH AN ONLINE LEARNING PLATFORM.
You can start by using apps such as Moodle,
Schoology, Edmodo, ePals Learning Space,
or MyBigCampus. These apps are safe and
secure for students of all ages. Each app offers
various levels of permissions and protections
that permit districts to adjust the content for
each grade level. Teachers can create discussion
boards, blogs, surveys, forums, and activities for
each class or browse the greater community for
collaborators around the world.
3. GIVE STUDENTS A VOICE WITH VOICETHREAD.
Create a reading list on Voicethread for your
school library where students can record their
thoughts on books they’ve read or suggest books
to be added. World Language teachers can also
invite students to record responses to an image,
listen to their recordings, and respond to all the
4. BECOME PART OF HISTORY WITH TWITTER: WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE WORLD AROUND YOU?
Put a hashtag in front of a buzzword to
see what’s happening in the twittersphere. In
February 2012, Twitter played a key role in
the uprisings in the Middle East. Our students
searched hashtags such as #Egypt to identify
tweets with links to reliable sources. Many
students were able to retweet what they found
to news aggregation apps like Paper.li to create
a constantly updated newspaper. Students
knew what happened before it hit the evening
news. You can also encourage your students to
create a hashtag for your class to use Twitter as
a backchannel, chatroom, or discussion thread
where kids can post discoveries, reflections, and
questions. Another neat idea is to ask students
to tweet a novel. The 140-character limit forces
students to use concise thinking and succinct
5. CONNECT WITH GLOBAL CLASSROOMS THROUGH EPALS.
This global community is free and
accessible to students of all ages. Select a
language and a student age group to connect
with a class in one of 200 countries through
Skype, video, or email.
|Are you currently a member of, or have you ever joined, a social networking website for personal, educational, or professional reasons?
6. REVOLUTIONIZE RESEARCH WITH DIIGO SOCIAL BOOKMARKING.
Teams of students can collaborate as they
research, share bookmarks and resources, and add sticky notes and comments. Diigo
Educators’ Group connects members to a
worldwide network of professionals who share
the same interests.
7. BECOME A CRITIC WITH DESTINY.
This library management system allows
students to rate books, post reviews, share
resource lists, and upload videos. Our students
write, produce, and upload book trailers that all
visitors can see.
8. COLLABORATE TO PUBLISH ORIGINAL FICTION ON WIKIA NOVELAS.
Our Diaries of the Latin American
Revolutions, a role-playing simulation wiki,
was begun by students in the class of 2012.
This wiki was further revised and edited by
unique visitors and students in the class of
2013. The Revision History feature allows
teachers to see how each student contributed
to the wiki.
9. PUBLISH AND CRITIQUE ORIGINAL VIDEOS SAFELY ON YOUTUBE.
In a Google Apps domain, teachers and
students can create their own personal YouTube
channels. To maintain your privacy, you can
make them “unlisted.” When our music students,
poets, videographers, and debaters choose to
publish their work for the world, we can help
them decide what is appropriate. Students can
engage in peer critique using the comments
section below each video.
10. ENGAGE IN CLASS DISCUSSIONS WITH FACEBOOK GROUPS.
This familiar environment encourages long,
reflective writing. Working in Facebook with your
students helps them understand appropriate
social interactions. Student-posted surveys gather
hundreds of responses in a week. Facebook photo
albums let kids share photos from field trips and
post photos from school events. With younger
students, you can try Fakebook to help them learn
how to socialize in a virtual environment. (www.classtools.net/fb/home/page).
11. LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE ON LIVEMOCHA.
This worldwide community of language
learners lets students connect with people around the world. Students get feedback from native speakers
as they practice reading and writing skills and give
feedback to users who are learning English.
12. CREATE A FLEET OF IN-HOUSE REPORTERS WITH TWITTER, FACEBOOK, AND FLICKR.
Why have kids sit back and observe when they
can wear a Press Pass and document every minute
of the action by taking photos and video with their
phones or tablets? Tweet to the school hashtags,
upload to Facebook with a caption, or post to the
school Flickr account.
Students will network with or without us. Isn’t
it our responsibility as 21st-century educators to
ensure that kids know how to navigate this tricky
Cathy Swan, a regular presenter at T&L’s Tech
Forums, is the Technology Integration teacher for the
humanities and social sciences at New Canaan High
School in New Canaan, CT, and a Google-certified
teacher. She is a regular presenter at Tech Forum New
York. Swan also sits on the Board of the Connecticut
Educators Computer Association and on the Connecticut
State Commission on Educational Technology.