Today, an increasing number of teachers are integrating social media into their lessons. However, while these platforms can provide significant educational benefits, they don’t come without their share of risks. It’s no wonder, therefore, that many educators have concerns over the threat of cyber-bullying and issues around e-safety.
“Cyber-bullying & e-safety are paramount as technology is advancing faster than the social and emotional ability of children to use appropriately”. Teacher, Essex, The State of Technology in Education Report, 2016
However, helping to keep pupils safe, the different UK teaching councils do offer guidance on the responsible, professional use of electronic communication and social media in the classroom (although some educators don’t feel this advice goes far enough). And, despite the rhetoric, most teachers are using social platforms safely, and without any difficulty.
“Technology used for education can have a beneficial effect. Social media however is one of the biggest issues to behaviour and engagement in schools today”. Deputy Head Teacher, Hartlepool, The State of Technology in Education Report, 2016
What’s more, while some teachers fear the distraction of social media, when used correctly these tools can actually engage pupils like never before; ultimately helping to keep students interested and discouraging bad behaviour.
However to ensure the safe use of social platforms, and enhance the way children learn in the 21st century, it’s vital to adapt social media use to an educational context. Here are just some of the ways that modern teachers are safely using social media in their classrooms:
Social media can open up communication with trusted external experts. For example, science teachers can use Twitter to interact with organisations such as NASA, and pupils can tweet their questions and observations; adding a new level of interaction to lessons. You can set students the task of researching and coming up with queries in advance, so they make the most of this unique opportunity.
Image sharing boards such as Pinterest can be used to boost collaborative learning; for example, teachers can create a task-based Pinterest board for a class to contribute to. Once done, the teacher can add comments and feedback on the resources the pupils have pulled together.
By letting pupils take over the school or class account (while setting some clear rules about use), students can use Snapchat to report on a school event such as a sports day or talent show.
To bring history to life, students can create Facebook pages for leading characters from the past; adding the content that they think these historical figures would post if they had access to modern media.
Skype can be used to connect pupils and classrooms around the globe; helping them to learn about different places and cultures. For example, music teachers can use Skype to create collaborative songwriting experiences, while citizenship teachers can use the platform to host debates.
As part of an English project, teachers can get pupils to share their reading recommendations by taking photographs of their favourite books and sharing them on this popular platform.
Of course, there are many other ways teachers can use social media. As well as forming a part of lessons, teachers can also use platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest to advance their own careers; and, many social channels are helping educators to communicate better with parents.
But most importantly, social media can really enhance a classroom and inspire learning; so it’s vital that digital champions highlight how such tools be used safely – in an educational context – if we are to address concerns and lead by example.