Whenever somebody mentions social media in a school setting it’s almost always because the staff are worried about e-safety and can’t understand why the children are so obsessed with social media platforms such as YouTube and Snap Chat.
However, I think it’s time that we, as educators, change our mind set and begin to look at social media in a different light.
Personally, I’m still developing my knowledge of social media but there are two things about this technical phenomenon that I’m already 100% sure of.
Firstly, children are obsessed with using social media and developing their social media profiles.
Secondly, due to their incredible interest in social media, children are very confident using different platforms and have a deep understanding of how to do so.
Once I realised the aforementioned facts, I began to reconsidor my own opinion of social media and began to think about how I could fit it into the curriculum. I began to considor how much time and effort I put into making the children feel interested so that they’ll engage with a topic and realised I could use social media to hook them into almost any subject.
The purpose of this article is to share the ideas that I’ve implemented in my own classroom so that you too can begin to capitalise on the social media craze.
Whenever I asked the children to create a character description, we’d nearly always go through the exact same process; name, appearance, personality, why is he good/bad – and the children nearly always groaned and then gave me the same answers they always gave me.
In order to freshen the lesson up and encourage more unique character descriptions, I decided to take advantage of their interest in Facebook.
All I did was go onto the internet and google “blank Facebook template” and then printed off one of the results. I handed each child a copy of this template and asked them to create a Facebook profile for their character; allowing them to use categories such as siblings, likes, dislikes, age, location, occupation. The results of this have been fantastic with children putting more thought into their character than I’d seen in years because they wanted to ensure their character had a “cool” profile which truly depicted them as a person.
One work sheet and one mention of Facebook and I had 33 highly engaged young people providing me with outstanding work.
Whilst I have used my idea for Facebook to enhance a history lesson (Henry VIII always has interesting likes and dislikes), I also like to use Twitter as an alternative as I feel it generates some brilliant discussion about the subject at hand.
Twitter allow their users to write messages that are limited to 140 characters, something which can be more challenging than it sounds.
As a starter activity or plenary, I’ll often ask the children to write me a Tweet from a historical figure. It’s a great way to challenge them to deepen their thinking because they have to really think about the historical setting and events when they’re deciding what to write. I always find that limiting them to 140 characters encourages them to be more creative and they show a lot of wit whenever completing this activity.
I find that children quite enjoy writing playscripts and become quite excited at the thought of bringing their story to life through dialogue.
However, once they realise that they’re not going to bring their story to life and it’ll remain nothing but words on a page, their interest soon wanes.
So, why not let them bring their story to life?
Using an iPad, the children can easily act out their playscripts and you can upload the activity to YouTube. This is a great way to engage the children and I’ve been amazed in the past at how many children and parents will then go onto the schools YouTube account and watch the miniature performance.
It literally takes about 5 minutes at the end of a lesson for the children to record their work.
A major benefit of doing this is that the children will often go onto their own YouTube accounts and comment on each other’s work, giving them instant feedback and covering a key part of the Computing curriculum which focuses on e-communication and writing for a purpose.
I think uploading work – from any subject – to YouTube is a great way to communicate with parents and to help the children become more engaged with a lesson as they see a purpose to producing outstanding work.
Whilst music is the subject I’m primarily focusing on in this section, it should be noted that this is possible with any speaking and listening activity.
SoundCloud is a very popular audio sharing site that people upload mp3 audio onto for people to listen to. I create a SoundCloud profile for my school and use it to upload music that they create in a lesson (recorded on an iPad). I find this to be another very popular activity with both parents and children because they will often approach me to tell me that they’ve been listening to their work on SoundCloud and are happy that I’ve shared it.
I’ve also used this to record a Podcast (again using an iPad) where the children were asked to discuss a topic. I simply recorded their entire conversation and uploaded it.
Did you know that Instagram is now more popular than Twitter?
Instagram is basically a social media sharing site where people upload photographs to their profile with a small caption.
Imagine telling the children in your class that they’re going to create a set of artwork around a subject and that you’ll photograph it and put it on the school’s Instagram account. Instantly the children are more engaged and will put a lot more effort into their work because they’re working for a purpose.
This is the true beauty of social media, it allows the children to have an audience and gives them a sense that they’re working for a purpose.
Whilst this idea is very similar to the Twitter idea (using Twitter in history) it’s more of a long winded term-long project for the class to enjoy.
Most classes now – especially in primary – have a class text which they read throughout the term. Why not create a parody Twitter account as the main character and constantly update it throughout the term, informing parents and governors what’s happening in their life. Every time you progress through a chapter, one of the children can Tweet as that character sharing their feelings about a situation in the story.
A huge problem that I find children encounter when writing is making a story flow and understanding how their characters react in a certain situation. Tweeting progressively as a fictional character will encourage them to think about the story progression and to considor how a character acts and why – which they can then use in their own writing.
Whilst Google Earth isn’t a form of social media per se, I just wanted to take the opportunity to mention it because it’s a fantastic tool to use in the classroom.
All the children have to do is type in a place or landmark anywhere in the world and they’re taking directly to it (using a 3D globe). Google uses satellite technology to take photographs of every single street in the world and they’re then rendered in 3D – so the children can explore wherever you’d like them to.
This is great for exploring a new country or landmark, as well as for directions.
However, I also feel that FaceTime is an overlooked social media tool.
By signing up to FaceTime you can then add a class in another school or another part of the world to your contacts. Once you’ve done that, you can use FaceTime to make a video call and can chat with the children and teacher in the other class.
This can help the children learn a lot about geography as they can literally interview people living in that area. To make a FaceTime call, all you need is the internet and a contact number for the other class and, let’s be honest, we all have contacts in education all over the place!
Believe it or not but allowing children to access social media in school can have a significant impact on their understanding of the topic.
Whenever I discuss e-Safety with the children at school, they always tell me it’s fine because their accounts are private. No matter how many times I tell them that they need to be more careful, they’re adamant they’re right.
Why not challenge that?
Ask the children to Google their name and location and see how quickly they can find a link to their social media accounts. Trust me, the impact of this is incredible because they’re literally experiencing the emotion of finding their account rather than listening to you tell them that it’s still possible.
Once the excitement of seeing their account has passed, they’re nearly always a bit worried about the fact that they’ve been able to locate their profile. Whilst we don’t aim to make children worry, this is one time when I think it’s important that they do understand the risk.
We’re always asking children to understand different emotions and situations that are occurring in the world. However, by allowing them to access YouTube or Twitter, they’re able to see certain events unfold through news reports and people giving their opinion.
It can be quite powerful to let them read what people in the world are saying, especially those people who are directly involved.
Social media is a fantastic tool that can be very useful in the classroom when used in the correct way. Platforms such as Twitter can allow your class to connect with famous people who they’re studying (in the past several schools have had Tweets from celebrities and authors thanking the children for their work) which is a great way to inspire the children to enjoy their learning and work hard to produce outstanding work.