Social media debate - to use in the classroom or ignore
The use of social media has skyrocketed, as more sites make their applications available to users. As of 2015, 65 percent of American adults and 90 percent of young adults – those ages 18 to 29 – utilized online profiles, according to the Pew Research Center.
Since the popularity of social media shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, various industries have amended their practices and procedures around use of these websites. While some fields have embraced the online profiles, others have attempted to work around them. Education is an example of a concentration that stands in the middle of the argument. There are pros and cons to utilizing social media in the classroom. The University of Cincinnati’s Master of Education program takes a closer look:
Con: Social media could be a distraction
Many educators worry about using online platforms in their teaching practices due to their potential for pulling students away from their coursework. A study from Informate Mobile Intelligence found Americans check their Facebook, Twitter and other accounts around 17 times per day, making teachers’ fears of distraction understandable. In addition, people in the U.S. spent the most time on their smartphones per day – around 4.7 hours.
Teachers who allow their students to use mobile devices to access social media platforms during class time will have to develop certain rules and guidelines around the practices for the best success.
Pro: It is an educational tool
The students entering the classroom today – whether in grade school, high school or college – will be the most adept at social media, compared to the generations before them. On top of that, they will also have the most up-to-date information at their fingertips, making those in the Information Age likely to be some of the most knowledgeable people to start coursework in years.
Teachers can take advantage of this generation’s ability to utilize websites as an educational tool, according to Campus Technology. For example, educators can instruct their students on the prevalence of fake news on social media today. Since these sites are able to disseminate information to millions of people, it is not uncommon for articles with partisan leanings that make false claims to be shared over and over again. The key is being able to spot the lack of credibility of the sources, whether the authority is liberal or conservative.
These online platforms create an easy way for educators to begin discussions between people of various opinions, develop strategies for collaboration and boost the exchange of ideas. With the assistance of social media, students can earn a more enriching learning experience and enter the world more well-rounded citizens.
Con: Lack of evaluation of sourcesWhile access to information is certainly a plus of using social media in the classroom, the materials students have at their fingertips have the potential to be incorrect or missing crucial elements. It is important for people to find and use credible sources when it comes to online platforms. Instead of taking data at face value, teachers should seek out peer-reviewed research.
Anecdotal or opinion-based pieces shared on social media are widespread. While students often comment on these posts, the need for reputable data and materials established with evidence is critical to successful use of online platforms in the classroom. Educators should teach students how to identify trustworthy sources prior to introducing social media to lessons.
Pro: Curation of an online presence
The students entering the classroom now will be the first generation to have been familiar with online resources and social media their entire lives. Their social media presence may have started with their parents adding photos of them when they were born. Since online platforms like Facebook and Instagram will likely be around for years to come, educators can utilize the tools to help their pupils build an appropriate and respected social media presence.
As people enter the workforce and begin their careers, it is crucial to understand the importance social media plays in their lives. These future employees and leaders will need to be accountable for their online actions. Educators who include this lesson in their coursework will help their students build a better and more successful future for themselves.
Con: Cyberbullying is an issue
Teachers cannot be everywhere at once, monitoring students’ use of mobile devices and the social media applications available. One of the most important disadvantages to enabling people to utilize these online platforms is the prevalence of cyberbullying. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, 43 percent of teens were the victims of this practice in the last year.
As social media becomes the new medium for bullying, educators have to weigh the pros and cons of allowing the platforms in their classrooms and within their coursework. Both the victim and the perpetrator of the bullying will be more distracted by social media if it is available to them in school.
Pro: Constructive parental conversations
The relationships between students and their parents can often be tense, especially when new information or technologies are being introduced. With so much information being disseminated via online platforms, the gap of knowledge between these two parties could grow narrower. While some adults may see this as problematic to their interactions with their children, the use of social media in schools could actually improve the types of conversations pupils have with their elders.
With more information at their fingertips, students could participate better in constructive discussions with their parents regarding the subject of social media and beyond. Instead of arguing over the appropriate age to begin creating profiles and the materials shared on the sites, these two groups could have more open conversations regarding the topic’s influence on society.
Con: Inability to participate in the real world
It is a concern of parents and teachers alike that students who utilize social media too often will be unable to function as successfully in real-life situations. As internet discussions and debates become more common, educators do not want their pupils to feel the need to hide behind a screen to share their thoughts and opinions.
To ensure people are able to participate in online discussions as well as up-close-and-personal conversations, teachers need to create opportunities for students to share their insight in both situations.
Best practices for social media in the classroom
The use of online platforms within schools is often unavoidable. If teachers do not allow students to utilize social media, pupils will often do so anyway – going behind educators’ backs to comment, share and post on these websites.
Here are some best practices for using social media effectively in the classroom, according to the National Education Association:
- Leverage the media to meet the needs of both teachers and students, focusing on the content being utilized.
- Encourage pupils to start discussions regarding the information they find the most interesting.
- Invest time in social media, so teachers feel confident using it in the classroom.
- Pilot new ideas with students and assess their success over time, using quantitative and qualitative feedback.
- Understand full implementation and strong results take time.
- Suggest social media for personal development and show students how to accomplish this goal.
- Create a personal learning network by utilizing social media outside of a formal learning environment to converse about interesting topics and ideas.
Introducing social media platforms to a classroom full of students with a low attention span can be difficult for educators. Yet, more teachers are beginning to see the positive impacts of doing just that. It is crucial for people in leadership positions to understand both the pros and cons of this practice to ensure their own implementation avoids common pitfalls. Earning a Master of Education from the University of Cincinnati can help teachers develop effective strategies to use social media in the most productive ways possible.