Effective Uses of Social Media Technology for Education

Someone once told me of a story about a school that spent thousands of dollars to purchase and install Smartboards in every classroom, only to have 50% of them go unused. It wasn’t a question of teachers not knowing how to use them but rather the teachers not knowing  how to incorporate them into their classroom exercises in a meaningful way. I personally think that technology should be incorporated in the classroom when it enhances the learning process or makes learning or teaching methods more effective. With that said, I decided to develop a list of suggested uses for social media for learning. I compiled this list based on my own experiences and ideas of how to incorporate social media.

I think the major purpose of social media in the classroom is for communication between students, parents, and educators. Popular social media sites like Twitter andFacebook can help keep parents and students engaged in classroom activities through real-time status updates and other forms of microblogging. Starting a group or account on most social media sites is simple and the benefit of a service like Facebook and Twitter is that parents can get the updates directly on their smartphone, for those that have one. However, if you find that most of your parents do not have smart phones (and you have $7 per month of budget available) you may want to consider using a service like txtsignal.com which allows you send mass text messages. Mashable has a list of sites that also provide this service.

Here are my ideas on how social media can be used in education to:
  • Broadcast Class Events
    If you use a service like Facebook you can setup invitations to events and keep track of the parents that have committed to attending school performances or productions, field trips, fundraisers, and/or who have committed to volunteer.
  • Make Class Announcements
    Using social media to communicate is also a great way to keep parents in the loop about student coursework, class themes, homework assignments, projects, exams, etc.
  • Celebrate Student Milestones and Achievements
    SMS (Texting), Microblogs (Twitter), and Social Networks (Facebook) can be used to publicly acknowledge and celebrate the milestones and achievements of individual students, the class, school, and/or parents. I think that public recognition for one’s work, contributions, and achievements in school can be a great motivator for students and parents.
  • Document and collect data during field trips or other off campus activities
    A knew phenomena in social media is location-based microblogging, likeFoursquare, which can be used to “check-in” in different places around the city. This sort of social media could be used for educational scavenger hunts or even for extra credit activities where students who check-in or tweet at certain educational sites gain bonus points. Additionally, Microblogs and social networks can be updated with pictures and status updates logging educational experiences in real-time during field trips. This sort of information could be shared not only with parents but also with students in other classes across the globe. Students could take virtual trips by viewing the tweets, status updates, and check-in locations of other students in other countries.
Ultimately, it just takes a little creativity and practical application of the technology tools to make them useful. I think the best use of technology in education happens organically because it makes sense.