Social media networks have proliferated to aid with different user needs and experiences. Unfortunately, navigating them can be daunting and incorporating them into your teaching can be overwhelming. But we believe the benefits for student learning, relationship building, and your professional growth are powerful. To help, we’ll explore four common social media platforms and provide some suggestions for you to try now.
Why we like it: Twitter offers an immediately accessible (and highly responsive) community capable of expanding your classroom conversations, your digital professional learning network (PLN), and facilitating inquiry and feedback—all in 140 characters or less.
Why people hesitate: They ask: What is the tone? Who exactly is the audience? How do I condense complex, often abstract thoughts into 140 characters? These questions can be hard to answer because Twitter is so diverse, making timelines often seem disorganized and noisy for new users.
How you can use it now: Start by making a strong bio connected to elements of your teaching identity (this is the description that will be used to identify you when people visit your twitter feed or search for you), compile Twitter lists useful to your students, and engage and respond to what’s relevant to your class. If thoughts aren’t condensable, use links to blogs or articles. Twitter uses hashtags (#s) to organize content topically and thematically and can help you easily search for how users are categorizing content. Explore a couple hashtags related to your field (here’s a list to start with) to see what the current conversations are, and have your students discuss how they relate to the scope of your course. Once you get going, you’ll figure out the answers to the questions above.
Why we like it: With over 1.23 billion users, Facebook boasts immediate access to friends, family, and colleagues that could increase the way you connect in your classroom. If students already use Facebook, incorporating class announcements, connecting them easily to their classmates and you into their daily routine has a level of ease other social networks may not.
Why people hesitate: Because of this increased access, some critiques of Facebook use in the classroom suggest that personal, social spaces become too public, causing an over-accessibility and over-familiarity with students. Additionally, many people worry Facebook in the classroom only leads to distraction.
How you can use it now: Create a teaching page like, invite your students to like it, and post updates about class and homework. To balance hesitations, be intentional with your activities utilizing Facebook and maintain appropriate privacy by changing your settings and talking about class community guidelines for social media with your class. Look at this professor’s experience for more perspective.
Why we like it: With many platforms (check out Lifehacker’s top 5), blogging allows for reflection, documentation of work, and engagement.
Why people hesitate: Blogging requires a moderate amount of upkeep, which means more effort, which means more time. Some students have also created blogs for multiple classes that often remain static after the course ends, which leads to disinterest and questions of relevancy.
How you can use it now: Start a class blog and have students post a relevant link, image, video, or quote relevant to your reading/ assignment/ lecture. Discuss the posts in class throughout the semester. Make a plan (with students) on how to handle the blog after the class ends.
Why we like it: LinkedIn is like Facebook for professionals. Your profile is a fleshed out CV or resume that your connections (friends) can actively endorse (like) which show potential employers and collaborators that you are qualified for certain skills. LinkedIn also suggests new connections for you to make based on your field and current connections.
Why people hesitate: The time to set up a LinkedIn profile can be extensive because of the tedium of plugging in your skills, job experience, and other qualifications.
How you can use it now: Have your students make a profile and encourage them to make at least one connection with a professional in your field. Separate sections into different days or activities to make it valuable.
Each social media network speaks to different pedagogical styles, disciplines, and content. We encourage you to try them out, ask questions, and to join us in upcoming weeks as we explore different elements of social media for teaching (including the launch of our hashtag campaign #ITeachMSU).
We’d Like to Know
How do you use social media in your classroom? What platforms work best? What techniques and resources have you found valuable? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
We’ve selected a few resources to utilize when implementing social media in your classroom:
Next Week: Learn more about using hashtags for your teaching and professional development. See you soon!
Kate Glanville is a PhD student in Crop and Soil Sciences and an Inside Teaching Fellow at MSU. Her research at Kellogg Biological Station looks at nutrient cycling in cropping systems. She has helped teach Leadership and First-Year seminars, Connected Learning and Agricultural Ecology.
Heather Noel Turner is a PhD student in Writing, Rhetoric, & American Cultures (WRAC) and an Inside Teaching Fellow at MSU. She is most passionate about computers and writing. Her research seeks to answer questions concerning visual rhetoric, digital pedagogy, community engagement and knowledge making (in both physical and digital environments).