While student engagement may always be a challenge for educators, one way to get their attention is to employ the social media apps they know and love. Our students are tech-smart and will be crazy about social media, whether we like it or not. So let’s get with the program (or the app)! Social media can be used for research, collaboration, and staying in contact, so there’s no reason we can’t integrate it into our lesson plans.
Here are some ideas for using Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, and YouTube in your classroom.
With its 140-character limit, Twitter is the perfect tool for distilling information and crystallizing ideas. Start a classroom Twitter account and then have your students tweet the primary concept or most interesting thing about what they learned that day (or week).
With a quick and simple keyword search, you can find informative Twitter pages to fit almost any subject you teach. Once you’ve targeted the relevant pages or channels that you like, ask your students to follow them. Then, create a weekly assignment in which each student retweets their favorite finds, on your own classroom page.
Here are some examples of Twitter pages your students can follow:
Snapchat is a mobile app for sharing photos and videos, which disappear from the screen within 10 seconds of being opened. It’s a perfect social vehicle for a Photography class – but its usefulness doesn’t end there.
Professor Britt from upstate New York has built Snapchat videos into his Psychology lessons. He posts "snaps" of real-life examples of his topics, immediately before exams, for his students to use as study aids. About 90% of his students are using these snaps when they study.
Snapchat can also be used to create tests or homework assignments. Post a photo or diagram that’s pertinent to your lesson and ask students to identify it, within the 10 seconds that the photo stays up after they open it. For example:
- Biology – post biological diagrams (of photosynthesis, for example) or photos of organisms, and ask students to identify them
- Chemistry – post chemical formulas and ask students to identify the substance, based on its molecular structure
- Math – exercise your students’ calculative powers by posting math problems they must solve in 10 seconds or less
- Current events – post a photo from the week’s news and ask students to write 1 or 2 sentences about the event or news item transpiring in the picture
Instagram is another photo-centric sharing app that you can use to engage your students and generate interactivity. Ideas for incorporating this tool include:
- Share field trip experiences – recruit student volunteers to act as “archivist” during field trips or other special class events
- Showcase student work – post photos of science projects or artwork
- Identify real-life examples – ask your students to find examples from their own lives that illustrate the concepts they learned in class. For example:
- A butterfly on a flower illustrates cross-pollination
- Architecture and nature may imitate geometrical shapes or illustrate the laws of physics
- Decomposing leaves indicate microbiology at work
For more ideas on using Instagram, read this article from We Are Teachers.
Kids love videos, and a YouTube addiction can actually become educational. Instruct your students to use YouTube channels like these for learning and research:
Conduct your own search to find channels that suit your class learning goals.
Would you love to take your students to some of the world’s great museums – but it’s simply not in the budget? Let them explore via YouTube:
And of course there are many other fascinating options. Your students can explore the whole world through YouTube.
How are you incorporating social media in your lesson plans? Share your ideas in our Comments section.