Classroom Strategies

How I Use Social Media in My Classroom

**This post is cross-posted to the Kid Discover blog “How I Use Social Media in My Classroom” posted on January 29, 2018.

Social media is a big part of many young people’s lives. Instead of fighting against social media in our classrooms and schools, we can come alongside our students and join them on social media! When we bring the learning into their court, we make school more engaging and relevant.

How I use social media in my classroom:

In my 7th grade science class, I use Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to share what we are learning with my students and their parents. This is an optional and extracurricular activity for my students; in order to participate, a student’s parent must sign our classroom social media contract to give their student permission to participate.

At the beginning of the year, we discuss appropriate posting and interactions on social media, the purpose, and the benefits of using this in our classroom. My students generally love having their work and activities highlighted, especially on Snapchat and Instagram. When posting photos or videos, I am careful not to post individual student faces or names (unless I ask the student for permission first).

As we are doing labs, I will frequently bring my iPad to students to have them take a picture of their work, caption it, allow me to check it, then post the picture to Instagram. Other times, I’ll take a video of students working, then ask a student to write a caption for our Snapchat story. (Bonus: I’ll allow my students to pick a school-appropriate Bitmoji for the Snap, too!)

Sometimes when I travel for conferences or for fun, and I go to a museum or notable location, I will share a picture with my students. They enjoy learning about the world, just like I do!

Last year, we had the opportunity to interact with some experts on Twitter via the class account. After doing a whole-class read aloud of We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen (learn more about the read-aloud here), we tweeted to the author to ask her questions about the book and about her writing process.

I handed my iPad to a student, they took the picture and captioned it.

Getting started:

Personally, I think Instagram is the easiest entry point if you are new with social media. Many students and parents use it;it is easy to keep a private account (users must “request” to follow you), and it’s user-friendly. You simply post and caption pictures.

Before you establish a class account, it is essential to check with an administrator to see what your school or district policies are on social media. Many schools and districts have their own accounts that you can connect with, too, if you’re looking for guidance.

You can also use my simple social media contract to alert parents, invite families to participate, and collect student’ usernames. Once students request to follow you, you can verify who they are and if they have permission before accepting their request.

Creating a positive “digital tattoo”:

When considering whether or not to integrate social media into your classroom, it is also important to consider digital citizenship. One of my favorite resources when it comes to digital citizenship is the Common Sense Media digital citizenship curriculum. I use the lessons in my class and at my school to help our student see that what they post online will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Student posing with their work in the computer lab.

While many call this a digital footprint, I prefer to call it a digital tattoo because it is extremely hard to erase something once it goes online — you never know who took a screenshot or saved the image! However, not all tattoos are negative! A tattoo can tell a positive story and have an uplifting message.

As I use social media in my classroom, I reinforce the idea that we need to create positive digital tattoos for ourselves as we post online. My students’ future colleges and employers will Google their name and examine their digital tattoo as a routine part of the acceptance process.

Social media is one of the fun parts of my day! I highly recommend that you create a classroom account and share your classroom highlights!


The Power of PLN, Twitter, and Hashtags

I wake up every morning so grateful for my PLN. When I envisioned becoming a teacher, I never thought it would mean I would be connected with teachers from all over the country and world. In fact, I didn’t think teaching would cross paths with social media, especially Twitter. I created my personal Twitter account back in summer 2008 (No, I’m not sharing my handle…it’s private anyway!) and used it strictly for my random thoughts, what I was currently doing, and to briefly talk to my friends. After a few years, it wasn’t as versatile for social use, and I dwindled my use.
And, don’t get me started on my rant on hashtags. #hashtagsarenotparentheticalremarks. The end. Game over.  

But really, from the beginning of my Twitter use, I saw the purpose of hashtags to aggregate data and Tweets. I rarely used them, but was conscious of their purpose. During my break from the Twitter world, I was vehemently against using hashtags, except for their intended purpose. I still cringe when people write things on Facebook and use hashtags for parenthetical remarks. Come on people, just say what you want to say. 
When I started attending education conferences, my eyes were opened to the wider world beyond my classroom. So many teachers were on Twitter and connecting, I realized I needed to be a part of this. And, finally, hashtags were being used in a useful way! I jumped right in and started networking. As with any new technology (or language for that matter), I went through the silent phase. I watched other people tweet, and was too scared to say much of anything in reply. I got jittery posting a tweet, since it’s really not like me to put myself and my thoughts out in the open. Then, I started interjecting a few ideas here and there, adding to conversations, asking questions, and sharing my own experiences. From there, it all became an exciting and non-stop adventure! 
Rosy and I had dessert together via GHO!

Over the past year and a half, I have become a highly connected educator. There are members of my PLN (Justin Birckbichler and Rosy Burke!) that have become some of my closest friends, even though we haven’t met face to face. It is amazing to wake up each day and have meaningful conversations with teachers who enjoy teaching, and want to push me to be a better teacher. 

If I weren’t a connected educator, I wonder how long it would take me to burn out and become one of those negative and boring teachers?