I’ve always instinctively felt that educators are missing out on a goldmine of learning opportunities by avoiding or banning social media use in the classroom. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a large variety of opinions on social media in the classroom, ranging from “It’s cool, but how to use it?” to “It has no place in our schools!”
A year or so ago, I wrote about the potential for teaching the skills of social media use with Seesaw, a popular learning tool in many schools worldwide. The tips in that article constitute a risk-free alternative to what I am going to talk about in this article, and are a great start for teachers that are not comfortable with 13+ social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, YouTube and Twitch. (For more on Seesaw, check out our Teacher Toolkit for Seesaw).
While I don’t necessarily have a problem with exclusively using one tool to teach social media – and realistically almost any tool with comments, likes, and file sharing can do a good job of helping to teach the most important skills of responsible social media use – I do think that students become more engaged and empowered when they know that their work is being shared with a wide and authentic audience of learners. In a closed social community like EasyBlog, ClassDojo, or Seesaw, student work is confined to the students, their parents, and their teachers, with promising but ultimately limited potential to be found in connected class blogs or in a Global Classroom Project. The students’ audience can be exponentially widened by bringing their ideas and projects into the world of popular 13+ social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube, for example.
Is it possible to meaningfully, authentically, and safely bring open 13+ social media platforms to elementary classrooms?
I think so, but of course it is also possible to do the exact opposite. It’s also important that we ask ourselves if is it worth the risk and the effort. Again, I think so.
I am now going to go ahead and give a few concrete examples of how I’ve used social media in my classroom beyond the social features of my class LMS. While most of the most well-known social media platforms could probably be used to do some of the same things, I am going to be focusing on my Year 5 class’s use of Twitch, YouTube and Twitter. I hope you enjoy!
Twitch for Live Video Streaming
My first example of the power of social media is an interesting one. As part of the Hour of Code, my students have been using a variety of Code.org coding tutorials and posting them on a shared Padlet. This Padlet includes social features such as ❤️ and comments, and ways to transfer stickies and files into other Padlets. If you’re interested in starting a coding project with your elementary students for the first time, I really recommend you check out my recent post, 10 Year Olds Ask You to Play Their Games for #HourofCode and last year’s coding project, Hour of Code + Caine’s Arcade Brings Creative Computer Science to Sudan.
After the students coded their games, posted them on the Padlet, and shared their arcade with the world on Twitter and Facebook, the games got picked up by live streamer and frequent collaborator Jim Stewart Allen. He was so fascinated by our class’s games that he wanted to do a live stream on the video streaming service, Twitch.tv. In order to make this safe, I had Jim go ahead and do the live streaming ahead of time, and then he and I went back into the live stream of comments and made sure that language and content were appropriate. The results were really amazing, and the kids felt so proud watching a famous streamer play their games and giving them praise. Check it out through this link via Twitch.tv.
YouTube Playlists for Student-Curated Content
Ever since I heard about the amazing things that Mr. Marcos and his students have been doing on Youtube and on their website, MathTrain.tv, I have been wanting to add a similar element to my students’ virtual learning environment. Like Khan Academy, MathTrain.tv has YouTube videos that cover all of the math that is being taught in Mr. Marco’s middle school classroom. The great thing is that the majority of the videos are created by students, for students, and they have become very popular viewing for students that need help with math.
My students have been working on a similar project since the beginning of the year, and have been using YouTube to gain a similar audience. To be safe, students do not show their faces, and the comments section of the channel is disabled. We are still working on how best to make these videos so that they are effective in teaching the math, but so far it has been a great way to empower students to search for their own answers during independent math times. When a student is struggling at completing their homework, they can now:
- Look up a video on our channel
- E-mail a student and expect to receive the link to a help video.
- Find related YouTube videos such as MathTrain and Khan Academy during their YouTube search.
The students are still looking to grow their audience, so if you could watch some of the videos on the embedded playlist above, and SUBSCRIBE, they would really appreciate it!
Twitter for Connecting Classrooms
As a final example, I am going to focus on the king of social media in education, Twitter. In a way, I see Twitter as the way of bringing all of the social media platforms together (and in the darkness bind them). In the below tweet with the pink lettering, you can see how I’ve set up our YouTube channel to automatically post student videos to Twitter. The tweet below that is the pinned tweet on the students’ Twitter feed, and it shows the Padlet that the students used to share their coded games.
There are many ways to keep Twitter safe and to follow Twitter’s 13+ age restrictions. To start, you have to have a class Twitter account as opposed to individual accounts for students. I customize my Twitter so that nothing comes onto our feed that isn’t from our school or from people that we know, trust, and want to follow. I preview all of the hashtags that we are following – so far we’ve been interested in #cleansudan, #Year5ActionArt, #HourofCode and #3GoodThings to name a few – before I start a lesson to make sure that there isn’t any inappropriate content that could get into students’ hands. As an additional safety measure, I have not downloaded the Twitter app to the students’ iPads, but instead I guide students through the Twitter website on their browser.
Back to the original question in this post, Is it possible to meaningfully, authentically, and safely bring open 13+ social media platforms to elementary classrooms?, I hope that these three mini case studies of live streaming, content curation and sharing via Twitch, YouTube and Twitter provide some examples of how open 13+ social media can be leveraged in the classroom. Of course, there is a lot of legwork that happens behind the scenes and in my classroom that I haven’t shared in this post. What’s most important is that we educators work to ensure that the social media used in our classrooms is effectively enhancing the curriculum and giving meaning to student learning.
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