Posted December 15, 2016 – AWE Learning Staff
As social media continues to increase in popularity, there is debate about whether it can be used as a learning tool. According to Business Insider, nearly 20% of time spent online in the United States is spent on social platforms. Facebook alone makes up 14% of total time spent online. This is not limited to adults, as young learners are also active participants in online communities.
There are many aspects of online networking that can be used in the classroom to provide an educational component for young learners, as well as professional development opportunities for educators. A national survey conducted by the University Of Phoenix College Of Education found that about 45% of all K-12 teachers believe participation in social media can enhance a student’s educational experience. In other words, social media can be used as a resource for teachers to post announcements, reminders, and real-time information. Despite these perceived benefits, however, 86% of teachers have not integrated social media into their classrooms, and the majority (62 percent) indicate that they do not plan to do so.
Hashtags, now a major part of several social networks, allow users to follow or participate in a conversation on any given topic. This gives young learners the opportunity to expand their discussion beyond the walls of the classroom, and to interact with individuals beyond their average experience. Hashtags also provide a plethora of professional development opportunities. For example, there are weekly scheduled twitter chats for educators, and numerous education-related hashtags currently in use.
When incorporated into the learning setting properly, social media can increase collaboration, help with homework, enable resource-sharing, and improve communication between parents, teachers, and students. Although this should not replace class participation, it encourages increased participation. Relevant conversations continue beyond the school day by incorporating specific hashtags into social media posts, or posting questions and ideas into a teacher-created social group. By posting and reading blog posts by classmates students around the world, young learners can share their ideas and gain inspiration from others.
Naturally, there are also a number of cons associated with social media that raise concerns for teachers, school administrators, and parents. Online networks can be a distraction and detract from real-world interaction if students are not given specific instruction on its use. It is important for teachers and parents to provide safe-use training to ensure that social media is used as an asset. This also eliminates potential exposure to unwarranted and inappropriate content.
With the growing inclusion of technology for young learners in the classroom, consider your own approach to social media as part of classroom instructional strategy or library programming. If social media use by young learners is inevitable, how can you leverage it as a learning tool?