I’m old enough to remember a time before the Internet when an alphabet of encyclopedias took up permanent residence in every home. But I’m young enough to know that the Internet is now an integral part of the learning experience.
If you have a question, there’s probably a YouTube video with the answer. If you want the latest news, it’s probably trending on Twitter.
Within the last two decades, the way that we search for and consume information has evolved.
And if your students were born anytime after the year 2000, they’re commonly referred to Generation Z, or Digital Natives. Your students are not only comfortable with using the Internet, it’s the only world they’ve ever known.
In the Gen Z world, almost any answer is a click away. Also, information finds them where they live (which is primarily on social media). And that’s the way it’s always been for them.
So, if your students are completely fluent with digital technology, it makes perfect sense for you to use it as a tool to aid your teaching. And by “it”, I mean the Internet in general, and social media in specific.
Instead of thinking of social media as some hobby the kids do after school, think of the ways you can use it during school to enrich your lesson. Social media is not a pastime, it’s your partner in teaching.
But, how do you use social media in that way?
Let’s discuss the best educational uses for social media below. We’ll also go over simple, powerful, and brilliant ways to implement these these social media ideas in your classroom. Let’s get started.
Reasons to Be on Social Media
Just like the universe, the benefits of being on social media are ever expanding. Let’s go over the main reasons why social media is such a dynamic tool for teachers.
01. You can use social media to teach digital literacy to your students.
Sure, your students are digital natives, but that doesn’t mean that they understand how to use digital tools effectively for research or learning. You can show them how to create, find, use, and share content.
02. You can help your students become better digital citizens.
In addition to digital literacy, it’s important to teach your students how to conduct themselves on various digital media. There’s etiquette and then there’s netiquette. Your students may not know the basic rules of social media engagement, such as how the use of ALL CAPS is equivalent to shouting. You’ll have an opportunity to model respectful behavior towards the online community. You can give guidelines on how to stay safe online, and you can help students avoid participating in cyberbullying or other forms of online aggression.
03. You can keep track of events in real time.
Social media is often the go-to source for breaking news, whether that’s election headlines, local tragedies, geopolitical conflicts, or sports events. You can use social media to keep your students current on the news as it’s happening. It’s a powerful way to highlight hot topics and bring social studies, or other subjects, to life.
04. You can use social media to keep parents informed of your daily class activities.
Many parents have no idea what happens during the day to day, but that’s not because they don’t ask or don’t care.
Here’s a common scenario:
Parent: How was school today?
Parent: What did you learn?
Child: I don’t know.
Instead of hoping that your student will relay the message of how awesome today’s class was indeed, you can use social media to inform the parents yourself. This is one of the most delightful uses of social media– being able to connect with parents and share your day with them.
05. You can join a community of fellow educators.
Social media is an excellent place to look for lesson plans, experiments, worksheets, printed materials, advice, and new perspectives, just to name a few. A quick search on Pinterest will open up a plethora of fresh ideas you may never have considered otherwise.
And for those days when you need encouragement, you can find empathy and understanding on one of the various teachers only communities on Facebook.
06. Are you social media shy?
But, but… you have hesitations.
Let’s talk about those hesitations.
Yes, social media is wide open. And we’ve all heard about a teacher who lost their job because of an errant tweet.
But if you head into social media with your eyes open and a clear, proven strategy for success, you won’t have any problems.
To be safe, double check your school’s social media policy. Make sure that it’s okay to be on social media within your classroom. Some schools are more social media friendly than others, but just about every school has a social media policy in place.
As a rule of thumb, don’t mention the name or location of your school in public posts. Identify by district, if you must.
If you forget everything else, remember to create a professional account for your social media. You don’t ever want to mix work with your personal life, especially when you’re dealing with your students. You can get into mighty uncomfortable territory if you interact with your students from your personal social media accounts. I recommend creating an account for your class and not you as a person.
But whatever you do, keep it separate.
Also, embrace transparency. Be sure that the students and parents understand how you use social media in your classroom. They should know the rules. In fact, print the rules and distribute it to parents and students and ask for them to sign off of these social media rules. Then, post it prominently in your classroom.
Finally, be mindful of what you say and what content you like, share, and repost. As a teacher, you shouldn’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t say in front of your class. And your grandma.
How to Use Social Media as a Teacher
Now, let’s discuss a few of the best ways to utilise social media as an educator. We’ll highlight the top five social media platforms, including Snapchat.
01. What is Twitter and how to use it?
Twitter is a networking service that allows you to send short messages (no longer than 140 characters). This microblogging service currently caters to 313 million active users.
3 Reasons Why Twitter Is an Amazing Fit for Teachers
1. Participate in “live” conversations with other educators.
2. Stay updated on news as it happens.
3. You can consume information quickly. Twitter offers snackable information.
7 Tips on How to Use Twitter as a Teacher
1. Creative writing challenges
There are so many great ways to encourage creative writing on Twitter. Who would’ve imagined? Here are three to consider: 1) Write a novel in 140 characters; 2) Collaborative writing where each student contributes a tweet and adds to the story; 3) Students can create a Twitter account for a fictional character (such as Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, Atticus Finch, Jay Gatsby, or the Cat [from the Cat in the Hat]. Then, ask students to tweet out in the “voice” of the character. This can help expand the student’s comprehension.
2. Create an advocacy
Set up a Twitter account around a cause, event, or special class project, and then document your class journey through tweets. Come up with a #hashtag, and encourage your entire class to participate.
3. Communicate with the parents of your students through Twitter
Even if they’re not on Twitter, they can still follow you and receive updates via text. To get notified by text, they’ll send an SMS text to 40404 (if you’re located in the US) with the text “FOLLOW [your username here]” (no quotes). For example, FOLLOW FusionBooks.
4. Encourage students to research live events
Are you studying current events? Twitter provides an opportunity for your students to participate in an event as it’s happening, while also gaining perspective from multiple points of view.
5. Follow people
Follow other educators, or the people who inspire you and your students. Twitter provides a good opportunity to connect with the people who you’d like to invite to speak to your class (in person, or even virtually).
6. Get found by people
Use Twitter as a tool to get found by others. To increase your searchability, make sure that your bio is optimised for search by including keywords that describe you as a teacher, along with the subjects and grade you teach.
7. Join Twitter chats
Twitter chats are one of the most awesome parts of Twitter. By searching for a popular Twitter #hashtag, you can participate in ongoing discussions about sorts of education-centered topics. Need a list to get started? Check this out:
02. What is Facebook and how to use it?
Facebook really needs no introduction. With over a billion users, Facebook is the undisputed leader of social media platforms.
3 Reasons Why Facebook Is an Amazing Fit for Teachers
1. Because 1 out of 7 people on earth use Facebook, there’s a good chance that your students (or at least their parents) use Facebook, too.
2. This is a great platform for connecting fellow teachers.
3. Facebook is easy to use.
7 Tips on How to Use Facebook as a Teacher
1. Use Facebook Live to broadcast what’s happening now in your classroom, and for activities outside of the classroom as well. Share a recital as it’s happening with parents who couldn’t make it. With Facebook Live, you can broadcast for up to 90 minutes. I also like this option for creating an interactive conference with guest speakers.
2. Create events on Facebook to keep parents informed about upcoming field trips, parent-teacher meetings, picture day, and more.
3. Create a private group for your class.
Here in this private environment, your entire group of parents, students, and teacher helps can post openly. Encourage your students to ask questions about their homework, or share information with other students.
4. Highlight a student of the week.
What a nice way to celebrate each student in your class.
5. Post videos to your private group.
Post videos that instruct the class on how to complete an assignment, or provide extra content for a topic you discussed in class.
6. Share photos of your daily class activities.
Instead of live streaming, post photos of your daily class life. You can create a weekly digest photo gallery, too.
7. Join educator groups.
03. What is Pinterest and how to use it?
Pinterest is a visual bookmarking tool that allows you to save images or videos. Pinterest has 100 million active users.
3 Reasons Why Pinterest Is an Amazing Fit for Teachers
1. Discovery: With Pinterest, you can find the ABC’s (Anchor charts, Bulletin boards, Classroom decor) and pretty much any educational resource you’d want or need.
2. Collaboration: Connect with other teachers. Glean from them and share your resources.
3. Inspiration: It’s impossible to visit Pinterest and not to get inspired.
7 Tips on How to Use Pinterest as a Teacher
1. Get classroom decor inspiration. You can find a huge assortment of classroom decorating ideas, from bulletin boards to desk arrangements.
2. Encourage your kids to do a global scavenger hunt without leaving the classroom. Instruct them to use Pinterest to search for images of different people or locations to add more interest to your lesson.
3. Create a board and invite your students to join. On this board, they can pin information about history, science, music theory, or virtually any other subject to enrich class resources.
4. Post images of your own genius. Share your lesson plans, classroom decor, anchor charts, worksheets, and more with others on Pinterest.
5. Pin photos of class projects. If you’re careful to not show faces, you can post and keep these images on Pinterest for your next class to view and be inspired by.
6. Organise your ideas in a visual way. Create multiple boards to corral of your ideas and make them easy to find.
7. Create a classroom Pinterest account and assign each student a board of their own. Here, they can post visual bookmarks to their web research. You’ll also be able to chime in with comments on the student’s posts.
04. What is Instagram and how to use it?
Instagram is a photo and video sharing mobile app that you can also use (in a limited way) on your desktop computer. Instagram has over 500 million monthly active users.
3 Reasons Why Instagram Is an Amazing Fit for Teachers
1. It’s accessible on desktop, and not just via app. This means you can easily use Instagram without a smartphone.
2. Instagram is like a big teacher’s lounge where you can swap class ideas, laugh with each other, and find encouragement.
3. Hashtags are huge on Instagram, and it’s easy to use hashtags to search for people, posts, and places that you’re interested in.
7 Tips on How to Use Instagram as a Teacher
1. Make sure that your Instagram account is set to private because you may share photos that include children. In addition, you should also ask for the parent’s express permission (in writing) before sharing images of their child on your Instagram account.
2. Delete all photos and then block access to those accounts at the end of the school year.
3. Instagram is all about visual engagement. It’s a photo app, after all. Take photos of your day and share them with fellow teachers, students, and their parents.
4. Use Instagram photos as a visual writing prompt. You can find many beautiful images on Angeliki Jackson, Asa Sjostrom, Matthew Karsten, National Geographic, Simone Bramante, Stacy Kranitz, and Theron Humphrey.
5. Share humor and inspiration with your fellow educators.
6. Ask students to take photos of an event (like a field trip) and then upload these images to your class Instagram account. Additionally, you can encourage your students to participate in a semester long photo essay, using a class-specific hashtag.
7. Search for other teachers like you. Use hashtags like #iteach6th or #iteach2nd.
Here Are 7 of the Best Hashtags to Get Started with on Instagram:
05. What is Snapchat and how to use it?
Snapchat has over 100 million daily users, with an average of 6 billion video views every day. That’s a lot of video. Although this platform started off with a really negative reputation as the sexting app, Snapchat has rehabbed its image over the last couple of years. It’s now a respectable way to share fun, short messages with others.
3 Reasons Why Snapchat Is an Amazing Fit for Teachers
1. The most important reason to use Snapchat is because your students do. It’s a good medium for providing information to your digitally native students.
2. Because most of us are visual learners, Snapchat is a perfect tool for capturing the attention of most students.
3. Snapchat works best for upperclassmen and not lower grade levels.
7 Tips on How to Use Snapchat as a Teacher
1. Create and post from a class account, never ever a personal one. I wish I could hire a skywriter for this message. It’s so important that you maintain transparency on Snapchat, so be sure to keep your Snapchat strictly professional and student/teacher/parent focused.
2. Use the Snapchat Stories feature to weave together a videos and photos for a 24 hour viewing period. Keep in mind that, while snapchats automatically self-destruct, it’s still possible to take screenshots.
3. Post daily summaries of your lessons. This can reinforce student learning.
4. Provide visual instructions on how to do a homework lesson. Sometimes, it’s easier for students to see instructions than hear or read them.
5. Send updates to students and parents alike. Is the school closed for weather? Is there an important test on the horizon? Keep your kids informed with Snapchat.
6. Ask students to document their progress during a project and save it to Snapchat Stories. This allows your students to share the experience with the rest of the class without the stage fright that often accompanies class presentation.
7. Offer quiz prep. Highlight what they need to know for an upcoming quiz in visual form.
Over to You!
Which one of these social media platforms are you most excited to try? Let us know in the comments below!