How using social media to engage students enhances collaboration and critical thinking skills
With the amount of time teens and adults spend on social media alike, did you ever think that you may actually be able to leverage social media to your advantage in the classroom? As it turns out, using social media to engage students may be an effective tool to have in your arsenal for the educational landscape of today.
A Pew Research Center study from 2015 found the following with regard to the use of social media and related technology by American teens (identified as those between the ages of 13-17).
- 92% go online daily, with 24% stating they go online “almost constantly”
- At least 93% use social media, in which
o 71% use more than one social media platform
o 22% use only one social media platform
The numbers make it clear: American teens are spending a lot of time online, and the majority of them use social media. Despite the traditional view of social media as a distraction, schools can use the facts above to their advantage by designing a curriculum that incorporates using social media to engage students – while at the same time teaching them essential media literacy skills for the 21st century.
Of course, it is also important to take the proper precautions in implementing such a plan – for example, ensuring such courses are developed in accordance with both school and social media platform policies.
Educational Benefits of Using Social Media to Engage Students
Dr. Richard J. Light, a Professor of Teaching and Learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, believes as a conclusion of a study he conducted that the one factor that empowered students to succeed the most – at least at the college level – was “their ability to form or participate in small study groups.” He found research participants that held group study sessions at least once weekly “were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.”
Of course, more than one student within the same class may have the same or similar questions relating to a particular assignment or concept discussed in class. Given different schedules, personality types, and learning styles, new media can provide ideal foundations through which students can collectively benefit from “the wisdom of the crowd” by, at minimum, any combination of the following –
- having new ideas to supplement their knowledge and critical thinking on a particular subject
- contributing to and building upon the discussion at hand
- potentially getting the answers (or getting closer to the answers) that they were looking for
– all using a time, place and a manner that works for the student.
The fact that most students will already have their own social media accounts facilitates the possibility of group learning and holding group study sessions. This has the added benefit of appealing to more socially-conscious students, while simultaneously providing a platform where quieter class participants may be more comfortable in expressing their views.
Final Thoughts on Using Social Media to Engage Students
High school freshman Katie Benmar stated in an Education Week article that of the teachers she had, those who integrated technology into their teaching “were interesting to listen to, and the projects were fun and challenging.” She added that an online book discussion allowed her to consider and comprehend a piece of literature her class discussed better than a book report would have: she was engaging with the material in a new way, and able to consider new angles as she was now paying attention to the voices and information others were bringing to the table, instead of her singular, inner monologue that her traditional book reports tended to be based on.
An upcoming post will explore recommendations for modifying your plan into a constructive force for educational good if you are planning on using social media to engage students.
Category: In Class