Is Twitter the Key to Better Student Learning?

Imagine an entire class discussion happening on Twitter. Picture a final photography project posted exclusively on Instagram.

Do those ideas excite you, or make you nervous?

The use of social media in schools is controversial. Even with the pervasiveness of Twitter and Facebook — and new social media channels that students seem to discover every week — some school leaders are still skeptical.

And their concerns aren’t without merit.

Will allowing social media use in school distract students? Will encouraging online sharing result in privacy issues? Will social media-based lessons enable bullying?

These are all legitimate concerns that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But, more and more, teachers and administrators are looking for middle ground — ways to keep students safe while taking advantage of new mediums to increase student engagement and improve learning.

Writing for TeacherCast, Luisa Brenton shares ways social media can enhance classroom instruction. Here are a few:

Unlimited collaboration
By definition, social media networks bring together large groups of people — people who might never meet otherwise. It also lets users gather information, solicit feedback, and explore new perspectives.

Whether it’s a quick class poll via Twitter, or a shared lesson with a class in another country via Google hangouts, social media allows students to work together with relative ease.

Writes Brenton: “Social media’s biggest benefit is the connection we have to each other. Students in a study group in the same class have the same advantage as a group formed from across the globe. Distance and time are no longer a hindrance to learning.”

Extensive resources
Social media puts the world at students’ fingertips.

Students doing research projects can ask questions of experts from across the globe, meet people studying similar subjects, or find pictures and videos to illustrate what they’ve learned.

Have students doing a project on astrophysics? Why not encourage them to join the Astrophysics and Astrobiology group on Facebook? More than 3,600 members post daily, giving students access to like-minded individuals with similar interests.

Or, better yet, why don’t they just direct message Stephen Hawking on Twitter, and ask him a question?

No costs
The real beauty of social media is that it’s free.

Instead of buying subscription-based research software or textbooks, you can help students gain powerful knowledge without paying a dime.

Brenton also argues that the advent of social media levels the playing field between low-income students and their wealthier peers. While we still have a long way to go to close the digital divide — especially at home — more students now have access to digital resources in school.

Allowing students who may not have regular access to computers — or even a phone — to interact and collaborate on social media in school will expose them to a broader world and more opportunities.

For Brenton’s full list of social media’s positive impacts, check out her article in TeacherCast.

To be clear: We’re not arguing for unfettered access to social media in school. But, organized, quality time with these tools may help students better grasp the content and dive deeper into what they’re learning.

Does your district use social media to enhance student learning? How have you found the right balance? Tell us in the comments.

Want to know what’s being said about your district on social media? The social media features of Let’s Talk! can help.

Author: Todd Kominiak

Todd Kominiak is Managing Editor of TrustED.

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