Can Social Media Be a Learning Tool?

Written by Nicholas Alesantrino

Considering the most repeated phrase by teachers and most annoying phrase to students is “put your phones away,” I would have to say social media could be used as productive learning tool in and out of a classroom. The students only have so many people they can text. What do you think their thumbs are scrolling on if it’s not a dialog of texts? Social media of course!

Students use social media to stay “connected” with their friends and keep up to date with their individual interests. Even if they are not completely engaged in a class, or subject area, social media could add that familiar territory for the students to work with a tool they interact with every day.

Students and teachers can easily access social media at any time, anywhere with the use of a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Most of these devices are also set up with pop-up type notifications that will alert the user to any activity they choose to keep tabs on. The pop-up can be viewed over whatever application the user is working with, on the device, allowing the user to be alerted right away and able to act as quickly as possible. This can be useful for time sensitive material that teachers send out. For example, if a teacher wanted to make modifications to an assignment discussed in class, all they have to do is simply tweet, Facebook post, ex. “Make sure to look at the modifications made on the assignment” with the link to the assignment included in the post. Even more simply they could create a post with the modifications explained right in it, “Read pages 33-40 for tomorrow, instead of pages 33-60 ”. The students get the notification instantly and can adapt.

Using social media in the same type of way the students can stay up to date with classroom activity if they are absent or class happens to be canceled (in which case there is applause). The teacher can make it a ritual to tweet, or post out topics/materials that were covered, or supposed to be covered, that day. This allows the teacher to keep the class on track; especially with how much makeup time that is implemented into the curriculum, little to none! At the same time the students can take ownership of their work they missed and make it up in a timely manner.
(This all is assuming that the teacher has made sure all students have convenient access to the social media tools prior to doing the above practices.)

The evolution of social media has also made it very user friendly. This can work in the benefit of the teacher when they want to tweet or post documents, videos or any material related to their class. This could be done with homework, in class assignments, or it could even be taken to the extreme and used to run a reverse classroom. The idea of a reverse classroom is tweeting, or posting; videos lectures or lecture material (PowerPoint, handouts, ex.) on a social media site. This makes in class time available to ask questions, clarify any material, do experiments, work on examples or just discuss the material. The students are doing the “boring part” outside of class, so they can be engaged in the material during class and leave the classroom with a good understanding of the lecture and examples. Whether a teacher uses it for a couple assignments or uses it to run a whole lecture the video, and document uploading functions of social media sites can be a great tool to reach students.

All together social media is a great resource, which is greatly under used, in and out of a classroom. Of course teachers can use a little social media or decide to make it a major part of their class. That is the beauty of it, a teacher can find how much social media is most effective for the course and their students. So I encourage all students and teachers to listen for the famous phrase “put your phone away” and next time think about how that same distracting phone could be turned into a powerful social media resource for the classroom.