Teachers take on the Twitterverse: Incorporating social media into education

When Tablet PCs arrived at McNicholas High School, the idea was to incorporate modern technology into everyday education for both students and teachers.  While it seems that many teachers have done well with over a year and a half of experience teaching in a tablet-oriented classroom, a new opportunity has arisen for our educators: incorporating social media into lessons.


“What we are doing is exposing them to a variety of technology tools that may spark some new and innovative ways to teach,”  Director of Curriculum Dan Rosenbaum said.  “We are encouraging them to look into a variety of different ideas such as flipping the classroom, using blogs, discussion boards or wikis, online testing, or even Twitter.”


Math teacher Christine Rohling sees potential in the idea, but admits that she would rather stick to more conventional teaching methods.  “I am of the mindset that I would prefer to not interact with my students with social media that is not school-sponsored or overseen,”  Rohling said.


French/Yearbook teacher Julie Dill, who was skeptical at first, said, “I will admit, I’ve found some great accounts to follow that help engage my students in their French lessons.”


The idea of incorporating social media into the classroom certainly isn’t new.  Throughout the past few years, educators across America have been making the switch to technology-powered lessons, encouraging students to share their ideas on blogging websites, or abandoning PowerPoint for the presentation-sharing site, Prezi.  With education taking such a drastic turn, many have already begun to debate the benefits and the risks of allowing students to communicate online as part of assignments.


“I believe that we should be opening new doors to our teachers,” Director of Educational Technology Katie Ritter said.  “It’s not about using social media, but rather connecting with the kids where they’re most comfortable.  The more tech tools they learn to use, the more they can choose from for use in the classroom.  Teens are already using websites like Twitter, and I feel like it would be much more convenient if they could have assignments show up on their newsfeed rather than having to constantly check e-mail and Edline to see what the homework is. Twitter is also a great place for teachers to find lots of resources to develop themselves professionally.”


While Twitter can be a convenience, there’s also a strong possibility that students could easily become more focused on constant updates from friends and celebrities.  Idea sharing on blogs and classroom websites, though positively-intentioned, could quickly lead to plagiarism problems.  Do the benefits of social media in the classroom really outweigh the risks?


Students have already begun to voice their own opinions on the subject.  Sophomore Samantha Noland admitted that she is skeptical about changing the traditional ways of learning.


Noland said,  “There’s nothing wrong with the way students are being taught, whether it be by tablet or more conventional methods.  The way I see it, we don’t need to bring social media into the classroom to keep students interested.  It’ll just lead to more distractions.”


Freshman Melissa Frey has enjoyed using Twitter in Ms. Ashley Markesbery’s English class.  “Since we started using social media for class, I’ve definitely been more interested in what we learn because I can relate it to my everyday life out of school,” Frey said.


Markesbery began incorporating Twitter into her classes after attending a technology conference at Cincinnati Country Day.  “That’s how it started for me.  It’s just another way I could meet students where they were, or ‘get on their level,’ if you will.” Markesbery said.  “I feel like students are more likely to check Twitter (mostly on their phone) than their school email, so that was a really easy way for me to post reminders and general information that I wanted them to be aware of.”


Markesbery said that her students have enjoyed the convenience of Twitter. “It’s a great communication tool, and usually the first place I find out news and information about a wide variety of topics,” Markesbery added.


As of today, there is no requirement that says teachers must use social media in lessons, but some students may be writing on class blogs, following their teachers’ Tweets, or even taking tests online.


“What we want to do,” Rosenbaum said, “is cultivate an environment of exploration, experimentation, and searching among the teachers so that our students will have the same thirst for knowledge moving forward.”


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