There is no doubt that social media for students is now one of the most influential sources of news and opinion in the world. Many of us can’t go through the morning without checking Facebook updates, or Twitter feeds a couple of times. Some celebrate this development and the freedom of expression that comes with it. Others talk about the evils of social media on society and the hidden dangers on seemingly harmless sites.
The debate becomes more heated when we speak of the influence of social media in the classroom. There is a divide between those that want to see all phones put away at the start of the class and those that want to utilize social media as a learning tool. So, which side is right?
This is what this guide to social media in the classroom aims to discuss. There are plenty of arguments for and against this learning tool. Here we will take a closer look at both.
This means a more detailed look at the potential of all of the resources and connections available on these platforms. However, we have to be realistic and look at the potential issues involved too. In the end, this should provide a balanced look at the impact of this new teaching tool and its future in the modern studies.
Why Are Teachers Wary Of Social Media For Students?
Many teachers and faculty heads will express immediate concerns about this new trend. There are simple reasons for this. Many prefer to hang onto old-fashioned teaching methods simply because they are familiar, tried-and-tested approaches.
(Source: Snap Language)
Some will feel that they are not equipped to handle the tech and new approaches. Others are too caught up in the idea that social media and mobile tech is nothing but a negative distraction. In many cases, it is easier to push this new development away than embrace it.
The adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes into play here. Many supporters are keen to highlight the benefits and showcase the potential of these modern learning tools.
There are plenty of potential benefits for students in the right setting. The first benefit here is connectivity. Facebook connects us to friends, colleagues and other acquaintances to share photos, messages, and ideas. This is perfect for students working on projects from different locations.
Discussion and chat groups offer forums for ideas and studies outside of the school setting. Teachers can then access these groups themselves to monitor the progress and find evidence of independent efforts and applied learning.
Twitter is different. Here users connect to anyone they wish to follow to learn more. This means immediate links to universities, academics and overseas facilities with greater insight on a project. It also means access to world leaders and other figures of interest.
Social media is a great place for news and alternative sources of information. Many people get their news via Twitter or Facebook before turning to a more official source. This is a great learning tool in itself. There are endless streams of real time news and opinions that don’t have the bias of specific news channels.
Real people tweet stories and share images that newscasters may ignore. They also do so as it happens. It can be difficult to formulate a class project around current events like this. However, it does add some excitement and context to the subject. This is perfect for dry political issues.
Social media means a broad range of multi-media content that will inspire students further. A textbook isn’t always enough for a project, especially for those after a contemporary angle. The printed texts and old photos create distance on subjects, especially if the language used is difficult to understand.
Social media is a great additional tool for contemporary ideas on the subject and different methods of presentation. Memes and GIFs may be frustrating to teachers, but they are memorable for students.
News stations share bite-sized videos of stories with clear text that are more accessible for mobile users. This includes students in the classroom. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram provide endless streams of content where something is sure to inspire viewers. Teachers could find that these aids help with all kinds of studies, from science and civics lessons to art projects and literature assignments.
This should all lead to increased student engagement, participation, and better grades. This takes us back to that idea that students would much rather be on their phones than paying attention to a lesson.
A student may, therefore, find themselves more inclined to learn if the lesson, or homework, requires the mobile device. This could become a valuable tool for re-engaging students in their subjects. This is especially true for students that struggle with traditional learning processes.
This idea of improved student engagement leads to the potential knock-on benefits. Those engaged in the process and tasks are more like to participate in the project. Students will work together in and out of the classroom with fewer concerns over the time spent on the project. This increased participation should mean better grades.
This raises an interesting point about students with learning difficulties, disabilities, and other issues within a traditional classroom setting. Some students struggle to follow along with textbooks, engage with students face-to-face or understand topics the same way as their peers.
Social media may help here in some ways. The range of forms of visual media may be of use to those with comprehension issues. Online interactions and group chats relieve the stress of classroom interactions. Also, social media contacts with similar disabilities or issues could provide guidance and confidence in their studies.
Finally, there are those improved skills for outside the classroom. There is the hope that this approach to social media in the classroom with providing additional skills. Social media is a big part of everyday life and business. Those that can connect and communicate with ease can create business contacts, market products and build brands. The right social media projects within schools act as stepping stones and training aids for this vocational side of these platforms.
However, there are still problems with this approach that may hold some academic institutions back. There is no doubt that this approach to student studies has a lot of potentials. The problem is that many teachers prefer to look at the downside of social media in the classroom.
Social media as a learning tool is not without its disadvantages. It is important that all schools and learning facilities have a clear perspective on the pros and cons involved here. This balanced perspective could help to implement social media in a controlled, helpful manner while dealing with major concerns.
Knowing when to turn the devices off and rely on textbooks and curriculum sources. One major concern from teachers and industry heads is the reliance on social media and mobile devices. No teacher wants to turn to mobile tech to lead the classroom, especially when different students follow different accounts on varying devices.
Textbooks offer uniformity and control where everyone works at the same pace, on the same passage or question. The solution here is to find that balance between the strict curriculum and designated topics and texts and additional projects and applied learning through social media.
The problem of getting kids to turn off their phone. The bigger issue here comes in allowing these devices into the classroom in the first place. The debate started with the issues of mobile tech as a distraction.
Will teachers struggle with this issue even more if tablets and phones are now welcome in the classroom for certain projects? Will students now feel justified in playing with phones because Facebook and Twitter are now official research tools? It may take some time to find the boundaries and ensure that devices are in use at appropriate times.
The problem of monitoring group work and homework on these social platforms. Social media platforms provide measures for monitoring group work and connections between teachers, students and other members of staff. There is that link outside the classroom for guidance and supervision with studies. The problem is that not all teachers, or students, want this link.
There is always the concern with students accessing private information about teachers. Also, students need a safe boundary where teachers can’t invade their privacy. The other issue here is that some teachers simply don’t know how to set up these groups and work with social media.
Those in charge must keep teaching and faculty staff up to date with platforms and tech. This means guidance on processes and functions, but also online safety and legal issues. This may require outside help and guidance.
Access to inappropriate content for the age group and online safety. Another major concern for schools and teachers is the lack of filters for inappropriate content. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram open doors to content and comments from all kinds of users.
The first risk comes with the content of an adult, sexual nature within replies and adverts. Schools may struggle to filter this completely. Then there is the bad language seen in many online posts. Users are free to use any term until another report their post. This means that children may see swear words and language of a derogatory, misogynistic, racist or xenophobic nature.
The concern here is twofold. First of all, there is the risk that this language will offend students due to their own gender, race or sexuality. Secondly, there is the chance that they will go on to repeat these words within the classroom. The solution may simply be to provide context on the terms and guidance on their use. It also helps to trust the better judgment of students.
Access to challenging ideas on politics, religion, and society. The other problem with social media sites is the freedom of content on different topics. Everyone on Twitter has something to say, and the freedom of speech to say it.
There will be times when there are stories and comments that challenge opinion, science, and religious views. Examples include comments on subjects such as climate change, evolution, atheism, sexuality, and alt-right movements.
Then there is the big issue of “fake news” and comments and stories directly from President Trump himself. It is important that students understand all sides of an argument, as well as these aspects of modern culture. However, the dark side of social media comments and Tweets are often disturbing and confusing to adolescent minds.
Social media still has its risks, but there are too many potential benefits to ban it from the classroom entirely.
There are clear benefits in store for those that decide to bring this modern learning tool into these studies. Unlimited access to the content of different types from all kinds of users is at the forefront here. This should improve connectivity, inspire users and improve participation and performance. However, there are risks to this “unlimited” and unfiltered source.
Students probably won’t have as many concerns about the adult content online, but there is still a risk that some will find offensive material. This raises problems of honesty, context and student safety. The last thing that teachers want is the parents getting involved and shutting a project down.
It is all about finding the right balance between the different tasks and projects, where social media is a help, not a hindrance. Teachers need to provide boundaries and control on social media use in a fair, effective manner. This is easier said than done for some academic institutions. The key to the solution is a balance.
Classrooms need that balance between those traditional projects and these new, modern approach to research and learning. Students need a balance between state approved curriculum work and independent projects.
Teachers need a balance between a friendly, accessible presence online and set strict boundaries. Those that find this middle ground should be able to enjoy this teaching tool while ensuring that students remain focused, engaged and safe in their work.