Teachers can use social media to meet students on their own turf and provide an engaging avenue to learning. In this post, we'll take a look at using social networks and microblogging platforms. Let's jump in and take a look at several lesson ideas.
Frontloading, also known as the reverse classroom, is when the bulk of your lessons are taught as homework through student interaction. When students arrive for class, they are ready to apply their knowledge.
Social media works perfectly for frontloading. With a classroom social network, you can add almost any type of media. For example, record your Spanish lesson, film a science experiment or even find a YouTube video that introduces a concept. Then, post it on your social network website. After viewing the content, students engage in an online discussion. When class starts the next day, your students are already familiar with the content and are ready to take it a step further.
Role playing is an absolute blast when combined with social media. The concept is super simple and generates powerful learning opportunities. Assign students to a role and they engage other students (who are also assigned roles) in character. Here are a few examples:
Characters in a novel
Historical figures and the people around them
What if these people met? (i.e. Rachel Carson and an oil company CEO)
Try these ideas in your class. Your students will love it!
If you can use Facebook in your school, have your students create fan pages for just about any topic. For example, a math teacher can create a "Geometric Theorems" fan page. This may be a stretch, but you get the idea. Would students rather prove theorems on paper or by writing on a Facebook wall?
Check out this sample fan page for Atticus Finch.
The collaborative properties of a fan page are a huge bonus. Students can work together and the results of their work can be shared with the entire class.
Communicating in 140 characters or less, a practice known as microblogging, is more popular than ever with the huge growth of Twitter. Microblogging is an excellent learning activity for students and encourages thoughtful, concise posts
Without a doubt the easiest microblogging site to use in the classroom is TodaysMeet. This site is completely free and requires no accounts at all. You create a microblogging environment, called a "room" where your students interact. Here's how:
Open your browser and navigate to TodaysMeet.
In the "Name your room" box, type the name of your room. It's best to have no spaces (i.e. cms_smith_english _period2).
In the "Delete your room in" dropdown menu, select when you want the room to be automatically deleted. For this assignment, choose 2 hours.
Leave the Twitter hashtag blank.
Click Create your Room.
Your microblogging environment is now ready. Type your first name and click Join.
Type a message and click Say.
Backchanneling is when your students carry on a Twitter conversation relevant to the lesson, while the lesson is occurring. Allowing students to tweet during your lessons can be a challenge but it is also an effective way to extend learning. Start by giving clear directions and goals you have for using microblogging during class. Explain how this is a way to write their thoughts while the lesson is in progress. Instead of just thinking, "I'm not sure if I agree with that," you can tweet it. This can help steer the lesson for better understanding for all.
A tweetup is when a group of Twitter users gather together and...tweet. For the school environment, we'll use the term Tweetup as a generic term for any meeting of microbloggers. It's like getting together at a friend's house but no one talks! In your classroom, you want all of your students to be involved in lively discussions. And, of course, you encourage actual, real-life dialogue between students. However, some students are quite reserved and nervous about speaking in front of their peers. While you continue to encourage these students to develop verbal expression, you can tap into their thoughts through a classroom tweetup. Many times, the quietest student in the room will share amazing insight.
Here's a quick lesson example. You assign reading for homework. When the students come to class, they go to your TodaysMeet page and digitally discuss the assignment in silence for ten minutes. You are involved in the tweetup as well, probing for understanding. When the time is up, follow up with a short, real-life discussion. The tweetup primes the pump and when the students can finally speak, the ideas flow.
Discussions in character
An effective way to use Twitter is to have students tweet in character. Let’s look at a specific example based upon Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Divide your class into groups of about five students each and have a Romeo and Juliet tweetup. Assign each group a unique hashtag (i.e. #chsenglit11 for CHS English Literature Period 1 Group 1). If you are using TodaysMeet, create a separate room for each group. Then assign each student a character from the play. Each group will be assigned the same set of characters. In our example, you will now have several groups with a Romeo, a Juliet, a Mercutio, etc. For the assignment, have the students tweet in character about important parts of the play or even tweet new scenes. A directive might be, "Tweet your character's thoughts immediately after Juliet's wedding gets moved to the next morning (before she drinks the poison.)" Make sure they tweet in the Shakespearean writing style! This assignment could be a one-time event or a continuous assignment throughout the entire unit of study.
Try out these ideas and discover how social media can positively impact your teaching. Make sure you post your social media tips in the Education Nation forums.
Mark Brumley is an educational technology leader, presenter and professional development facilitator who has lived and worked around the globe in his commitment to provide authentic learning experiences to enhance the education of 21st Century learners. You can follow him on Twitter @markbrumley and read his educational technology blog at MarkBrumley.com.
All statements and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and not of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or NBC News.