Teaching and learning is about more than just the content being taught. In order to really teach and learn, you have to have a way to engage your audience and get them involved. And that’s where social media tools come in!
Social media tools can help you set up your class as a community—where students and teachers can connect with each other on an ongoing basis, rather than just look at the same material in a one-off lecture. It’s also a great way for students to see what’s going on outside of their classroom, so they can feel more engaged with the material they’re learning.
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Social Media Tools For Teaching And Learning
Connecting with each other comes to us more easily now that we can just tap away on a keyboard and chat with a person who lives over 3000 miles away. Finding information knows no boundaries with Google on every computer in the world.
As educators, this means access to more, faster, which is thrilling and mindboggling. However, it can also be frustrating and confusing with so much to choose from.
How do you know which platform is the best for your goals? Which social media organization has the best resources and community? Which one would help you communicate better with your students?
All of these questions flutter through our minds as our eyes wander through the gallons of information we search through. So, to simplify this daunting task for teachers, the following list consists of the best social media for teachers.
1. The Connected Educator
A great site for connecting with other educators is edConnectr. It gives educators several avenues with which to find other like-minded educators. A Visual Mapping Engine narrows down certain criteria allowing educators to save valuable time and energy.
Edmodo acts as a playground for teaching and learning with a place for posts, calendars, and general communication for teachers and students. Linking to students becomes simpler and more efficient as well as more effective when students enjoy the presentation of it. It makes it easy to share valuable apps with students.
TedEd offers a variation of TED Talks with shorter, often-animated clips of subjects such as science, technology, social studies, literature, language, art, health, psychology, and business and economics. With communities and clubs, the site also makes it effortless for collaboration.
Besides great graphics and themes, Google+ takes teachers to their students with circles that make managing virtual communication an art. Students might need to know more about a particular lesson because they didn’t quite get it the first time. Pull them into a circle of their own with just the right tools to connect them to their path to understanding and learning.
The great part about Facebook is that everyone is on it. Students love connecting with their friends and family with Facebook so telling them to check out the page where you post only makes sense. However, it’s very important to stay professional and have a separate personal account.
The best way to use Twitter for teaching is as a reminder to students that they need to complete an assignment for a particular due date or that they have an exam coming up soon so study this or that. Sometimes teachers even use it for inspiration by sending a famous quote.
Students love Instagram for so many reasons but mainly for the photos and effects available to them. Teachers can create assignments that tap into the need to Instagram such as photo essays where students take photos, upload, and add captions or students can even create campaigns for certain organizations or just for a lesson.
If you want to share videos on Facebook or Twitter, use Vimeo. But, there’s a whole lot more teachers can use it for such as uploading and storing video then utilizing it as a tool to teach students more about creating video. Vimeo teaches for you at Vimeo Video School with lessons and tutorials.
With so many themes to choose from, WordPress has become a popular way for teachers to set up a web of communication and lessons with their students. Chalkboard is an educational theme that prepares students for learning and helps teachers outline goals and objectives while still providing great visuals. Teachers can also use it to inspire students to write more by having them create their own blogs and meet the WordPress Challenges.
Like WordPress, Blogger connects teachers to students using unique themes as well as diary-style writing. With access to teachers’ posted links, lessons, and thoughts students become more successful and comfortable with the teacher when learning online.
Using Skype means connecting with anyone, anywhere, at any time. This means students not only connect with teachers but teachers encourage students to broaden their view of the world. Set up virtual connections by contacting other teachers then connect the students to each other. Also, Skype has a whole portal dedicated to educators who can use it to teach various lessons already set up by the Skype team.
The celebrated platform for pinning favorite pix can be a great teaching and learning tool. It also encourages quick collaboration between teachers on all sorts of subjects and interests. Teachers can set up a Pinterest page for one particular class or a series of classes with Pins that focus on themes or subtopics important to the lesson at hand.
Educators of any level can click on the education category within YouTube and find several subcategories such as university, science, business, and engineering. YouTube even has a special section dedicated to teachers and how to teach with it. But, even if teachers never visited that section, they could teach using all the great videos available according to subjects or searches.
If YouTube doesn’t make the cut, try TeacherTube. It’s dedicated to all sorts of education, from the basics to more complicated work. Interestingly, the tabs for docs and audio are some of the more useful resources within it. However, it’s the idea of TeacherTube and it’s tools that make it so useful because teachers can use it to communicate with students and there’s no question that this is within an educational format.
For academics whose main goal is to share research papers, Academia.edu draws a crowd of over five million visitors. Academics can monitor the effect of their research and keep tabs on the research of the other academics that they follow. It’s a great tool for anyone needing data and information on various subjects and interests.
While acting as a professional social forum for employers to connect with applicants or search for potential employees, LinkedIn is used for so much more than that. Having students post professional resumes there and then contacting them about the job market and the business world around them keeps them in touch with reality and the endless possibilities through a targeted education.
Access millions of documents and hundreds of scientific news feeds by using LabRoots, a social networking site catering to scientists, engineers and technical professionals. Besides the plethora of information, it helps stay connected with colleagues and peers. Pulling students into the mix gives them a cutting edge feel and insight into precious tools and information.
Ijad Madisch founded ResearchGate, which is similar to LabRoots bringing scientists together for collaboration. The difference really lies with the mission and the creators who are scientists working to give visibility to the dedicated researchers all over the world.
Not a science lab, LabforCulture.org provides a place for artists to start blogs or an art group as well as connect and share information. Mostly made of Europeans, LabforCulture.org also highlights art news, events and exhibitions and helps artists find jobs and learn more about funding their projects. Teachers can use this for motivation and to help students get a feel for other artists’ work.
Focusing on the gallery concept, CultureInside creates space for online galleries and actual galleries. It might just be an artist’s dream if used correctly. With the guidance of a teacher, students can profit from their creativity as well. There’s also a feature called lightbox, which connects artists and helps promote artwork in other artists’ lightboxes.
social networking in school
Educators working with middle and high school students likely are aware of the explosive interest and involvement of youth in such online sites as MySpace, Xanga, Facebook, Live Journal, and the like.
These and similar sites are a new phenomenon called “online social networking.” In online social networking environments, youth register and establish profiles that provide personal information and photos. Then, they make connections or links with other members who share interests or connections — so-called “friends.” Members engage in a variety of forms of communication and information sharing, which can include personal Web pages, blogs, and discussion groups.
Online Guidelines for Students
Online safety and responsible use guidelines for students include:
- Be kind to others. Think how you would feel if someone posted similar things about you.
- Think before you post. Material posted in these communities is public, could damage your reputation, or could be used to harm you. It is not private!
- Take steps to protect yourself and others from bullying and harassment. Report concerns to the Web site and to a trusted adult.
- Report to an adult if someone posts threats of violence or self-harm. Such threats could be real threats. Don’t post threats yourself. Someone might take you seriously.
- Develop “stranger danger” detection skills. People online might not be who they seem to be. Develop a safety plan for meeting online friends that is approved by your parent.
- Stop the predators. If you have been contacted by someone you think might be a sexual predator, report it to a trusted adult.
Problems are associated with these social networking sites, but the sites themselves generally are not the problem. Review the sites and look at the User Agreements or “Terms.” These sites do seek to prohibit harmful activities. But with hundreds of thousands — or millions — of registered members, the sites cannot be expected to engage in effective “babysitting.”
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
Social networking sites are very attractive environments for teens, as well as for adults. Such sites present opportunities for self-expression and friendship building. Youth “play time” in such environments can build skills that will be a foundation for career success in the 21st century. Many teens are safely and responsibly engaged in such communities.
Legitimate concerns do exist about youth involvement on these sites, however. Those concerns are grounded in three basic factors: 1) The sites are attracting many teens, some of whom are not making good choices. 2) Many parents are not paying attention to what their children are posting on the sites. 3) Sexual predators — and likely other dangerous strangers — are attracted to places where teens are not making good choices and adults are not paying attention.
Some teens are engaging in unsafe or irresponsible activities that include:
Unsafe disclosure of personal information — providing potentially dangerous or damaging personal information. Many teens appear to have no understanding that what they post in those communities is public, potentially permanent, and accessible by anyone in the world.
Addiction — spending an excessive amount of time online, resulting in lack of healthy engagement in major areas of life.
Risky sexual behavior — becoming seduced by a sexual predator or child pornographer, posting sexually suggestive material or self-producing child pornography, or making connections with other teens for sexual “hook-ups.”
Cyberbullying — being cruel to others by sending or posting harmful material online or through a cell phone, or by engaging in other cruel actions.
Dangerous communities — at-risk youth making connections with other at-risk youth or adults to discuss and share information, which can result in a shared belief in the appropriateness of potentially very harmful activities.
WHAT SCHOOLS SHOULD DO
Is it appropriate for students to be participating in commercial social networking sites while at school? Probably not. It is advisable that schools seek to limit all non-educational, entertainment use of the Internet — including social networking activities — through the district Internet system.
Can and should schools block access to the sites? Well, they can try.
When the Internet first came into schools, the primary concern was youth access to pornography. Filtering software was promoted as the tool to effectively deal with that concern. Current concerns deal more with what students are posting, as well as how and with whom they are communicating. Do a search on the terms “bypass Internet filter” and you will see how easy it is for youth to find information on ways to get around the school filter.
Youth are unlikely to try to get around the school filter to access pornography because it would be pretty obvious — even from a distance — what they are looking at. Many youth are highly addicted to involvement in these social networking sites, however, and are willing to take the risk to use a proxy to access those sites, when it is far less likely that their access will be detected.
Should schools be concerned about off-campus Internet activities? Yes. Involvement in those communities might negatively impact student wellbeing and the quality of the school environment. Students might post material on the sites that harms other students, provides clues or direct threats about suicidal or violent intentions, or provides indications of hate group or gang involvement, or drug sales and use.
WHAT SCHOOLS CAN DO
A comprehensive approach to addressing student Internet access is necessary. That approach requires:
A clear policy with a strong focus on educationally valuable use of the Internet — no “Internet recess.” The policy must be supported by curriculum and professional development, and a clear expectation for teachers that all student use of the Internet should be for high quality, well-planned instructional activities.
Student education about online safety and responsible use.
Effective technical monitoring.
Appropriate consequences. Schools and districts should consider a full review of Internet use management policies and practices. A needs assessment and evaluation of Internet use would provide helpful insight. Safe school personnel must be involved in that process.
All safe school personnel — principals, counselors/psychologists, and school resource officers — should be well informed about the sites and associated concerns. Ensuring that safe-school personnel have the ability to immediately override the school filter to visit those sites to review material in the event of a report of concern is essential.
Internet safety and responsible use is everyone’s concern, but it is especially a concern for parents, because most youth Internet use occurs at home. Schools can help by providing information and guidance to parents and encouraging parental involvement in their children’s online activities.
A “just say no” or “just say block” approach will not be effective in preventing youth involvement in online communities or in addressing concerns associated with them. Proactive strategies to help students gain the knowledge, skills, and motivation to make safe and responsible choices, and continued adult involvement are necessary.
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