Social Media and the Classroom

With the start of the school year right around the corner (at least for those who still have to go to school), I thought it would be appropriate to write a post about how social media can be used by teachers in the classroom to enhance learning. A recent study by Ofcom showed that 47% of teenagers in the UK  now own a smartphone, compared to just 27% of adults (I imagine that the percentage is almost the same, maybe higher, here in the US). Before I go into detail, let me announce some breaking news from Siloam Springs, where I currently reside.

Siloam Springs High School students can now use their phones at school! Siloam recently finished construction of a brand new high school. Along with the new building, the school district is making some modifications to their technology policy. For the first time in Siloam history, students are allowed to use their cell phones in-between classes (as long as they don’t make calls). That means tweets, texts, status updates, etc. Additionally several of the floors in the building have an extra outlet plugs in them to prepare for the day when most students have all their books on electronic devices.

Now that Siloam Springs High (and I presume other schools) are allowing students to use their cell phones (and laptops for some, especially colleges) at school without any reprecussions, how can schools integrate social media into the classroom environment to enhance the learning experience? Here are just a few suggestions:

Twitter

Before I offer my recommendations, here’s a short video about how Dr. Monica Rankin of UT-Dallas used Twitter in one of her classes:

  • Class Discussion- As you can see, Twitter can be used in the classroom much like it can be during a sermon at church. The teacher develops a specific hashtag for their class, usually some variation of the course number (ie #BUS4001) and then encourages students to tweet in & out of class about course content using the hashtag. Using a search engine or Twitter client, the teacher/professor can see the tweets labeled with the hashtag in real-time allowing them to answer any questions posed or clarify any material that students don’t seem to understand.
  • Class Assignments- Two of my professors at John Brown University, Mandy Moore and her husband Bryson Moore (Twitter||Blog), gave Twitter-related class assignments for some of their classes (it’s thanks to Mandy that I began Twitter). One of Mandy’s assignments was for students to tweet several articles per week relevant to the class she was teaching at the time. So for Marketing Research, each student would find an article, tweet it, and hashtag it with the class tag. Bryson used Twitter to announce class assignments and even created an account for the whole class to use in order to get out word about the class blog (more to come on that in a bit).
  • Concept Processing- Do you know some students who just ramble on and on during class discussion? Well, thanks to Twitter’s 140 character limit (which will actually be less depending on how long your class hashtag is), students must be concise. For me personally, having a limited amount of space forces me to think through what I want to say more than if I had unlimited space. As a result, I am more likely to remember it (which is kind of the goal of learning, isn’t it?).
  • Here a few other ways that Twitter can be used from US News & World Report.

Blogs

  • Concept Processing- If you are a teacher/professor who prefers that their students flesh the material out beyond 140 characters, I recommend starting a class blog. Bryson started the aforementioned class blog for our Marketing Strategies class and had each student contribute posts several times throughout the semester (I would post the link to the blog, but unfortunately it has been hacked and has an…interesting…picture on it). In addition, he encouraged us to go out into the blogsphere and interact with other marketing bloggers on their sites. David Meerman Scott (Twitter||Blog), the author of one of the books we read in class and blogged about, even visited our class blog and commented on some of the posts. How cool is that?! Anyways, creating a class blog (or even having students create their own personal blogs and emailing you links to their posts) is a great way for them to process the class concepts even better, share their knowledge with the world (especially potential future employers), and also save paper.

Texting

  • Text-Your-Question- This concept has been used by several pastors during the past few years, most notably Mark Driscoll during/after his sermons in Q&A sessions, but could be transferred into a classroom setting also. As a teacher/professor, you can either give students your cell phone number or find an application that gives you a second number just for texting (just search your device’s App Store). Allowing students to text questions in class allows for the teacher to lecture in uninterrupted segments and pause to answer questions after each segment. Additionally, it gives an avenue for students that are a little more shy to have their questions heard (not to mention that it keeps a lot of students’ arms from getting tired from holding them up so long…).

Google+

I know that Google+ is still relatively young and is still in the invite/early adopters stage, but some of its features could make it a valuable classroom tool in the future. (By the way, if you’d like a Google+ invite, subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you one).

  • Class Circles- As a teacher, you could put your teachers in a Circle with their classmates. This would allow you to share class specific information with all of those students without clogging the News Feed/Stream for students in different classes. Since Google+ is an integrated part of the Google platform, you may be able to share Google Docs files with students in those specific Circles in the future (though that may be possible now and I just haven’t found it yet…) eliminating the waste of paper.
  • Group Hangouts- Students, do you wish you could work together more outside of the classroom, but have a hard time getting everyone in the same place? Teachers, do you like meeting with students to discuss group projects, but can’t meet with them during regular school hours? Well, Google+ Hangouts may be right up your alley. Hangouts allow up to 10 people to video conference with each other at once (Skype allows conference calls, but no video chat beyond 1-on-1…at least not for free). In addition to being able to hear and see each other, a group can open a Google Docs file on each of their computers and use the Collaboration features to work on it together online. Users in a Hangout can also view and discuss YouTube videos together.

    Image from a Google+ Hangout

  • Teach on the Go- For those teachers/professors who travel from time to time or have to stay home with sick kids, Google+’s Hangout feature could also allow you to give a lecture from anywhere as long as the classroom the students are in has a computer, projector, and sound (this can also be done with Skype). Let’s face it, unless you know a sub that is very knowledgeable of your subject area, most days that you are gone students spend doing “busywork” or, in the case of colleges, not meeting at all. Teaching over Google+ or Skype would allow your students to continue their learning momentum, even without you physically present. Gotta love technology!
Well, there you have it! Several ways to use social media in the classroom to help students gain, process, and retain the information that teachers/professors spend so much time preparing. If you have any additional suggestions on how to use social media to enhance the learning experience, please share in the “Comments” section below. I enjoy hearing others’ ideas.
-Lawson
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
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About Lawson Hembree
Lawson is an entrepreneur, ministry leader, and outdoors enthusiast who also enjoys blogging about business, ideas, and theology. Want to continue the discussion or write a guest post? Let's Connect!

5 Responses to Social Media and the Classroom

  1. Great info, Lawson (as usual). Too bad I didn’t see this before you left campus this morning – I would have told you in person! I wonder how the whole “cell phones between classes” will affect students at Siloam High… will they text/tweet/update anything they learned? Or will it be the latest gossip? That would be an interesting study… I like your notes about Twitter…I am trying to start using it again and it is a challenge to condense what you have to say into such few characters. Oh, and that is too bad our blog has an interesting picture on it… I guess you could have just linked to a video about POX instead.

    • As far as Siloam students go, they have been text/tweet/Facebooking things, but not related to their learning. Most of the updates are just conversations or stuff like that.

      Twitter has become my favorite social media outlet. As long as you follow the right people and update it regularly, it can be very informative and entertaining. Because of Twitter I hardly need to watch the news anymore or visit news websites. Also, using a tweet scheduler like CoTweet allows me to tweet regularly without having to interrupt my day to do so. I just spend 30 minutes each day scheduling tweets and let it do it’s thing, then I check it at night and respond to any messages.

  2. Lawson,

    Great article! I’m actually writing a story for a crowd-sourced journalism experiment called The Next Great Generation (http://www.thenextgreatgeneration) about Google+ being used in the classroom. Are there any sources you might be able to refer me to who I could quote? I’d appreciate all the help! My email: hnmurakami@gmail.com if you are interested. Thanks!

    • Hiroki,

      Thanks for the comment! TNGG looks like a great experiment. I didn’t use any sources for the Google+ article; it’s all original. A few days after I wrote this post, Chris Brogan wrote a post on using G+ for education (http://www.chrisbrogan.com/gpluseducators/), if you haven’t seen that. You have my permission to quote me if you’d like.

      Best of luck on the article! If you don’t mind, send me the link either here or on Twitter when you’re done with it so I can read it.

  3. Pingback: Social Media and the News | Lawson Hembree's Blog

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