Social Media in the Classroom
By Lance Mosier
8th Grade US History Teacher Westside Middle School
When I started teaching almost eighteen years ago the internet was still relatively in its infancy. A question was “Do you need to have a web presence? “ The goal of this web presence was to communicate to students and their families what was going on in our classrooms as well as to provide resources for remediation and/or enrichment. As we approach the end of the school year in 2018 having a web presence of some form is a forgone conclusion.
A new question has emerged in the teaching profession with the advancement of apps, phones, and a world that is increasingly being brought together through the use of social media is “Do you need to have a social media class presence?”
There are questions as professional teachers we should consider before answering this question of creating a class social media presence. I wanted to share in this blog post some of my own experiences both positive and negative on my journey of using social media in the classroom.
My first original thought of incorporating social media into my teaching was the desire to connect with students and parents what was going on in my class as opposed to a static website like a Wiki, Blackboard, or link to a Google Calendar page. I wanted to tell my own story of what happens in my class for both students and parents. I started using Twitter professionally in 2008 but I wanted to keep my classroom tweets separate from my professional account. So I created my class twitter account @little_abe_213 in 2013. I learned from Dr. Lindgren about using the website IFTT to autogenerate my tweets of my daily class agenda. I enjoyed using this automatic tweeting feature as a time saving device. In retrospect I don’t know if this was an effective use of Twitter. In many ways I just substituted one technology media the Google Calendar with another platform in Twitter.
I began taking pictures of students working in my class to show what was happening as a way to tell my story on Twitter. When taking pictures of students I try to take care not to include faces as much as possible. If I do have a face of a student I use the sticker feature on Twitter to cover up student faces. You also need to make sure that you have parent permission to post these images of student work. I think with concerns of confidentiality it is important to be careful what pictures you use before blasting student images out into the internet.
A growing frustration I had with Twitter was the challenge of not having my students and families engaging with my tweets. Although I have grown very accustomed to using Twitter as an educator I came to the realization that I was not reaching my target audience of students and parents. So this past year I decided to expand my class social media presence by creating an Instagram account titled @littlelincolns. I was hoping to use Instagram to share some of what was going on in my class, but also use the video features on instagram to help with reviews of key concepts we are discussing. Something to keep in mind is that both Instagram and Twitter require its users to be at least 13 years of age. This is not something you would want to encourage younger students to interact with directly. They should either look on with their parent’s accounts, or you as a teacher should post on behalf of the class.
Unfortunately this year I did not get to devote as much time on this account as I would have preferred. I was really good at but as my schedule intensified I was not as good about posting on my classroom Instagram account. I hope to continue to work with this account for the next school year for I see a potential of sharing review videos of key concepts, memes, and other media to assist in student learning.
So should teachers be on social media? I think that really depends on what goals you hope to accomplish by this tool. I see tremendous potential in an ever increasing crowded digital space to getting out our stories and engaging with our students and their families. There are also privacy concerns, teacher time to devote to having a strong social media presence, and the rapid changing nature of social media with new apps and tools that come available that need to be considered by teachers before starting a class social media presence.