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Social Media and the Students

INTRODUCTION

96% of students report using Social Networking Sites. Of those, 59% of students use the sites to
talk about educational topics.Currently, the education system is at a standstill in what direction to move
for teaching and learning in the 21st Century. In one corner there are those who support the idea of not
reinventing the wheel, which means they prefer to continue with the classic model of a teacher in front
of the class and students in their desk reading. In the other corner, we have those who believe in
innovation; they believe we need to challenge the method we’ve been using for hundreds of years and
change the dynamic of the classroom. Although the latter support a lot of changes to the education
system, one of the biggest changes is integrating technology into classrooms and introducing students to
online learning. I have taken multiple classes for K-12 technology integration, done ample amount of
research, collaborated with teachers who are both for and against integration and with the push of
integrating technology into classrooms and online learning, those who are against learning with the
internet sound like a broken record when trying to prove their point of distancing learning from the
internet. Their reasons include “Our students will learn to just copy and paste”, “There is no need for
teachers then.” and my personal favorite “Students will just be distracted with social media the whole
time”. It is astonishing to me that social media has such a negative connotation when it comes to
students. Many college courses require students to have a Twitter account to keep in touch with
classmates and many businesses use Facebook for networking. Why is it that social media is promoted
in secondary education and in the business world, yet criticized for K-12 students? It is 2015, teachers
who are reluctant to change their lower-level lessons which do little to engage their students need to
transform their teaching and login to 21st Century Teaching, which increases student engagement and
caters to real-world skills; the use of social media is just one solution to moving forward in the education
world.

WHAT IS THE REAL PROBLEM?

When it comes to student distraction, underachievement, and off-task tendencies, people tend to
automatically blame social media. First, I would like to call to attention this idea of distraction. What are
the students distracted from, a boring lesson? Students should be engaged, captivated, and motivated in
lessons, so much so, that they should not feel the need to distract themselves with social media. I
acknowledge that not every student is going to be motivated and engaged in every single lesson, but
that is just something to consider. Now, back on topic, is social media really a problem? Instead of calling
it ‘Social Media’ what if we called it Communication Central, or perhaps Collaboration Station, or even
Networking Technologies; the list could go on and on. The problem is not social media; it is the
perception of how people think social media is being used, and how we are undermining the benefits of
social media as a teacher’s tool.

INTEGRATE SOCIAL MEDIA INTO CLASSROOMS

Communication tool for students to chat with each other about assignments, asking a teacher questions,
and a way for a teacher to communicate with parents. There are 936 million people who actively go on
their Facebook each day (Smith, 2015). This number most likely includes parents and students; instead of
sending home a planner filled with assignments or another newsletter that will most likely sit on the
counter before finding it’s way to the garbage without being read, Facebook can be used for teachers to
post assignments, big events, homework help, etc. for both parents and students to access easily. A
teacher can simply create a private Facebook group for students and teachers, this allows for teachers,
students, and parents to use Facebook without the need to become Facebook friends.

Many classes create a Twitter page, which students can use to quickly ask questions, or share links for
their classmates to see. Teachers can also create a live stream discussion, which requires students to log
on during a certain time and post their thoughts and respond to their classmates’ posts. Twitter is a great
discussion tool because students can easily switch tabs and find an Internet link to support their thought
and share it with the class (Lederer, 2012). Karen Lederer hit the nail on the head when she spoke about
how social media increases student engagement, “Students who rarely raise a hand in class may feel
more comfortable expressing themselves on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Social networking platforms
enable teachers to establish “back channels” that foster discussion and surface ideas that students are
too shy or intimidated to voice out loud” (2012). Not only does social media allow students to take part
in whole class and small group discussions, but it also enables students who are shy in an oral setting to
thrive online. These types of discussions that used to take place orally in the classroom, now take the
form of writing. So not only are students communicating with one another about a certain topic, but
they are revising their writing in order to communicate their ideas concisely, which I believe is a grand
slam activity for students.

Facebook and Twitter have grown to be more than a posting about ones current status or pictures from
the weekend; in addition to the common uses, social media is also being used to share grasping stories,
current events, opposing opinions, raising money for a good causes, the list goes on and on. All of these
viral postings can be used as a learning experience for students. For example, a student can read a post
about a random act of kindness which motivates them to be a better person, or perhaps stumble upon a
controversial event leads the student to do research and take a stance backed by the information they
discovered using critical thinking skills; viral posts are one of a kind learning experiences that cannot be
replaced. Students can also share a viral post on the class’s social media page to generate debates with
classmates who are required to back up their opinions with information as well as learn to debate
respectfully. A class could also come together to raise money or help out the community based of a post
they saw online. The opportunities are endless when it comes to learning from social media posts that
have gone viral; and from these students will learn valuable life lessons that will foster their growth and
contributions to the community and future.

Apart from students using social media for school, there is also an opportunity for educators to come
together to grow and learn using the same tools. Teachers can become connected educators just by
using social media to bounce ideas of each other, collaborate, participates in educational discussions,
etc. Just as students can benefit from social media, so too can educators.

CONCLUSION

Social media is not going to go away; students have grown up with many of these sites and visit them on
a daily basis, so instead of trying to drive students away from using these sites that they have already
become accustomed to and use daily, it is crucial that educators use these sites to their benefit. Not only
does social media increase communication amongst students and the teacher, but it also creates a
valuable learning environment that encourages writing, reading, critical thinking, and research. The
infrastructure is in place, and mastered by most students, parents, and educators, so instead of ignoring
social media, use it, and use it often.

SOURCES

-Lederer, K. (2012, January 19). Pros and Cons of Social Media in the Classroom -- Campus Technology.

-Bennett, S. (2013, July 22). How Is Social Media Used In Schools? Statistics, Facts & Figures
[INFOGRAPHIC]

-Harven, M. (2013, November 6). Top 5 Problems in Education Today.

-Smith, C. (2015, June 29). 200 Amazing Facebook User Stati