With more than three billion social media users worldwide, it’s likely that everyone has experienced the frustration of trying to carry on a conversation with someone while they browse through Instagram or scroll through Facebook. It can be especially frustrating when you’re trying to convey something important or to teach or educate the person you’re talking to. Social media is a big part of almost everything these days—businesses use it to extend their reach and boost their brand, and people who have a lot of Facebook friends or who get a lot of Instagram followers are even using it as their business. It has even become a part of the classroom as approximately 13 percent of educators polled throughout the US report having integrated social media as part of the education they provide their students.
Many educators and parents are hesitant to embrace the concept of using social media as a learning tool, and it’s understandable as to why. With personal experiences trying to talk to their students and children as they browse and having nothing get through, it is easy to assume that incorporating social media into learning would have the same result. However, when implemented correctly and under a specified set of guidelines and rules, social media can be successfully incorporated into learning and can enhance the entire experience. The following are just a few ways that social media can be used in an educational setting:
It Can be Used as a Connection to Experts
There are experts out there for everything. Whether students are studying history, psychology, science, or politics, there are multiple experts that they can turn to to get more information on the topic, ask questions, and even receive help with an assignment. And thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to access those experts, ask questions, and get responses in (almost) real-time.
It Can be Used as a Way to Collaborate
Collaboration is an extremely important part of education. It gives students the chance to figure out how to work with other people who have different personality types, and it gives them different points of view and extra resources in addition to what they have available already. Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Slack, and many other social sites all make it easy and possible for students to collaborate, even if they can’t get together in person.
It Can be Used as a Way to Communicate
Educators often need to provide information about assignments, updates, details about upcoming school events, etc. but students often lose papers, don’t always pay attention, and don’t always retain what they’re told. Using social media to create a class page that students can reference for information on everything from their latest assignment to a newsletter from their teacher is a great and effective way to communicate since many students are using social media recreationally already.
It Can be Used to Provide Additional Resources
As great as textbooks can be, because of the different learning styles each student has and because the information in textbooks is not always explained in a way that everyone fully understands, sometimes additional resources are necessary. In those cases, social media sites like YouTube can be used to share videos—whether created by the teacher or not—that explain a concept better or give more background or information on a subject than is available in the textbook.
It Can be Used to Group Topics and Subjects Together
According to a survey, 94 percent of students say they would like to be able to use their smartphones in class for learning purposes. When not in class, students are undoubtedly using their phones, tablets, and other smart devices to help them study and gather information anyway. Even if educators prefer not to let students use their phones while in class, they can use social media and social media tools like hashtags to help group topics and subjects together, making it easier for students to find the specific things they need to study directly on their phones.
It Can Help Students Improve their Skills
Sometimes the best way to learn and improve is to do something. For example, an educator teaching an English or writing class may require students to blog on a daily or weekly basis as part of their homework. They can then easily have other peers provide feedback either in the comments or class, helping each other learn and grow as they apply the concepts they’ve learned and practice them in real life through their own school-related blogs.
It Can be Used to Showcase and Highlight
Everybody wants to feel valued and appreciated, no matter their age or status in life—when people feel appreciated, they tend to go above and beyond and try harder. Highlighting and showcasing students and their work is a great way to help show them that they are appreciated and is easily done through social media on school accounts. According to a survey, only 46 percent of students reported feeling they were a valued member of their school, but it’s possible that number could improve with more student recognition and appreciation.
Do you think social media should be used as part of the learning experience? Why or why not?