There is no escaping social media, and there’s no indication that social media will be going away any time soon. While many educators shy away from the use of social media in the classroom, that may not be the way to go. Social media is used on a daily basis in society, and more and more regularly by businesses, non-profits, and even by school districts.
Ignoring social media can have disastrous results. It is not uncommon to see stories on the news about employees fired from jobs over a single social media post. While relegating social media use is the responsibility of the parent, as an educator you can help teach students how to use social media effectively. Social media can be used not just for socializing, but for achieving results. Social media should not be used to shout abuse or bully others. In the classroom, you can teach this. You can do this in a specific lesson or simply by integrating social media into your weekly lessons.
Here are five approaches you can use for teaching responsible social media use:
- Have students keep blogs, and require them to read each other’s blogs as well. Beyond that, don’t give requirements. Students can blog about whatever they want. It may be used as a journal, as a way to inform their classmates about a topic they are passionate about, or simply to share their favorite things. This activity encourages reading and writing. It will also show what type of content and comments are appropriate and inappropriate.
- Start a Facebook group for your class. Your students are likely using Facebook already, so you may as well have students benefit from it in the classroom. You can use this Facebook group to make announcements, post reminders, and even announce assignments. On this group students can ask questions that either you or classmates can answer. They can share events, articles, and videos. Of course, you will have to monitor this to ensure it is used properly, but it is a great way to connect with students and keep students connected with each other outside of class.
- Teach students about checking their sources, versus blindly believing everything they read on the internet. Make it a project. Challenge students to complete a project on a specific topic, using social media as their source. Remind them of guidelines for choosing an internet source, like you would for a paper. They will find that many articles and videos on the internet are either misleading or untrue, which is easy to find if students do a little research. It is important they realize that not everything online is real, and that they should always double check sources.
- Create a real life situation by using roleplay on social media. This can be in the safety of your Facebook group, using a “fake” social media platform that is designed for educational purposes, or even with pen and paper. Ask students to write posts they would make themselves or post on other people’s pages. Give specific examples such as:
- Your teacher gives you a last minute assignment. What do you post to the Facebook group?
- Your mother comes home from work in a bad mood because of her boss. Her company has a Facebook page. What do you do?
- Your friends are sharing a funny video, but it may be considered offensive. Do you re-post it?
Use these situations to show what is responsible behavior and what is not. This is particular good for younger students who may not even be on social media yet. It shows that having an emotional reaction on social media without thinking can lead to negative consequences.
- Give specific examples of how poor social media use can lead to long-term problems. Make sure to choose carefully, as you don’t want to show your students vulgar content. But real world examples can really make students think before they post.