Since gaining widespread popularity in the early 2010s, social media has been a controversial topic when it comes to using it for education. However, many educators are now embracing social media as a teaching tool with a wide array of benefits for learning.
From parent-teacher communications to organizing group projects to developing digital literacy, social media has the potential to enhance the curriculum at any grade level — provided it is used responsibly. Here, we’ll explore eight platforms and five possible uses for social media in the classroom, plus some best practices for keeping it a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
How Social Media is Reshaping Education
Pros & Cons of Social Media for Students
8 Ways Teachers Can Use Social Media in the Classroom
5 Social Media Lesson Ideas to Try
FAQs About Social Media in Education
As around 60% of the world’s population knows, social media can be an effective way to share news, find communities, build social networks and disseminate information instantly to a broad audience. According to Pew Research, 95% of American teens use at least one social media platform — so it makes sense that educators would seek to engage their students using technology they already interact with daily.
Teachers can use social media to organize group projects, communicate with students outside of class, share resources, and much more. Social media also has the potential to connect schools to the wider community for purposes including:
Since 90% of U.S. adults are also on social media (and many likely access it on their phones), it is an incredibly useful medium for sending real-time communications to parents and guardians of school-aged children.
Of course, a tool as powerful as social media requires its users to exercise great responsibility to maintain a respectful, safe online environment. Teachers and students should be clear on both the benefits and risks before using these tools for educational purposes.
Benefits of social media in the classroom:
Downsides of using social media in the classroom:
While fewer school-aged young people are using Facebook today (about 32%, Pew finds), it can still be a useful tool for maintaining an online community, posting updates, sharing links and asking questions. Facebook can be used to organize specific projects, communicate with classes, form student clubs, plan events and more. The instant group chat function can facilitate real-time discussions, and Facebook Live enables teachers to lead virtual lessons, stream lectures and hold Q&A sessions. As administrators, teachers can set Facebook groups to private or invite-only to maintain a safe space for students.
Twitter can serve as more of a bite-sized message board where teachers can post short project updates, announcements, links to helpful resources or answer students’ questions. The platform can also serve as the basis for lessons in using concise language, since each post is limited to 280 characters — a valuable skill for both essay writing and future professional communications. Teachers can create dedicated handles or hashtags for each of their classes and invite both students and their guardians to follow along.
Blog posts provide another way for students to practice their essay writing, an increasingly important skill for higher grade levels. Instead of maintaining physical reading journals, students can submit weekly blog posts with their reflections and responses to assigned readings. Teachers can also use blogs to communicate project instructions during remote learning days or vacations and even write up a semester report for parents and guardians to review.
This is an excellent tool for sharing visual resources like infographics, artistic inspiration, tutorials or examples of finished projects. Many teachers use Pinterest to collect and organize their own lesson ideas, so creating a board (or several) where students can pin their own resources encourages collaboration and learning ownership. While students of all ages respond well to visuals, Pinterest may be particularly popular with younger students who are still practicing their reading skills.
Another great visual platform, Instagram can be useful for teachers to share updates, for administrators to post announcements and for students to post project results or follow accounts that are relevant to course content. Teachers can create class-specific accounts where they post assignments, instructions, resources, updates, and more.
This online community provides a space for anyone to unite around any interest imaginable — from fitness to classic film trivia to poetry. Reddit has a bit of an “anything goes” reputation for its lax posting guidelines, but moderators are typically on hand to mitigate any inappropriate or improper use of the platform. There’s a subreddit for every academic subject, so students can peruse threads for project research (while still verifying any information therein) and even post their own questions for the Reddit community to discuss.
Similar to Reddit, YouTube hosts video resources on any topic under the sun. Teachers can easily share educational videos, tutorials and any other type of video content. YouTube is also a great hosting platform for video projects, where students can upload finished videos for their teachers, classmates and guardians to watch on a private class channel.
This professional networking platform is mostly used by people in the post-school workforce, so high school students may not even be aware of it yet. However, whether they decide to attend college or not, learning how to market their skills and build a professional network can help students navigate the job market after graduation. LinkedIn is also a great place to find articles and other resources to help young professionals build their industry knowledge and skills.
The ideas in this section are merely suggestions for unique ways to use social media in the classroom — but the internet is your and your students’ playground! Use these ideas as jumping-off points for your own social media-based lessons.
For many young people, social media is a part of their (and their parents’) everyday lives. Chances are, if a teacher chooses to incorporate social media into a lesson, many students will already be familiar with the platform and how to use it. Since students may be accustomed to using social media outside of an educational context, it’s crucial that teachers set ground rules and expectations for the appropriate use of these tools.
The following are some best practices that will keep social media a safe and productive place for students and their teachers:
Set professional boundaries: Many teachers also likely have personal social media accounts, so when using these platforms for lessons, it’s best to create an entirely new account dedicated solely to academics. Keep accounts private and invitation-only so that no one besides students and their parents can access the content. No one, teachers included, should be posting anything about their personal lives or content that is unrelated to the course. Invite students to create new user accounts as well to avoid mixing their personal and academic business.
Prioritize increasing digital literacy: Generations of digital natives (including today’s school-aged children and many of their parents) have likely already been practicing online etiquette, but it never hurts to review both practical and appropriate ways to use social media. Remind students that anything they post online has the potential to exist forever, which becomes especially important as they begin to apply to colleges and search for jobs. Students should conduct themselves online just as they are expected to in school.
Promote student achievements: You and your students put in a lot of work during the school year — share your accomplishments with the community! If your school has a public social media account, provide the account manager with information about your class’s latest project or an upcoming showcase so members of the community can see what students have been up to. Not only does this give students an opportunity to show off their work, but it also serves as promotional information for anyone considering enrolling their own children in the school.
Manage multiple accounts from the same place: If you manage multiple accounts for one or more classes, use a tool like Hootsuite or Facebook Publishing (which integrates Facebook and Instagram) to draft and schedule posts for multiple platforms at once. This is especially helpful when students and parents need the same information, but each group predominantly uses a different platform.
Part of a teacher’s job is to never stop learning, whether it’s about the subject matter they teach, new educational tools or innovative ways to engage students. The University of San Diego offers multiple courses for educators in the Professional and Continuing Education program, including classes covering educational technology, digital literacy, equity in the classroom and more. USD also offers certificate programs that focus on specific aspects of education, so that teachers can build a suite of skills in areas like STEAM education or supporting English language learners.
For a full range of USD courses available through the PCE program, explore all course offerings here.
To protect students’ privacy, keep all class-related social media accounts private or invitation-only and encourage them to set their own accounts to private or create new class-specific profiles. Review proper online etiquette and behavior with students and establish firm consequences for cyberbullying. As a teacher, it’s critical to maintain professional boundaries online, so avoid discussing or posting anything personal on school social media accounts. You may even want to grant access to students’ parents so they can monitor how their children are using these spaces.
According to Pew Research, 67% of U.S. teens use TikTok, with 16% on the app almost constantly. Since so many students already gather in this digital space, teachers can engage them by creatively incorporating it into lessons. Ask students to film reactions to course content using TikTok trends, conduct research via subject matter experts’ posts, or create response videos in place of traditional project reports.
It depends on what kinds of content you want to share and which platforms parents and guardians are comfortable using. At the beginning of each school year, send out a survey asking parents to indicate their preferred social media platform, then use the top two results for parent-facing communications. With so many people on multiple social media platforms, it’s best not to limit school news to just one; fortunately, managing multiple accounts at once is simple with social media management tools like Hootsuite and Facebook Publishing.
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