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Written by: Rachelle Poth

July 22, 2015

Why Social Networks enable and enhance greater communication in classrooms and promote learning

social-media-classroom

​Social media has so many possibilities for use in every area of life. There are great benefits to the educational setting.  Educators and students will communicate and have better learning experiences by integrating social networking into the classroom setting which then leads to enhanced collaboration and presentation formats.

As an educator, I find that reliance on a variety of forms of social media is increasing because of what social media enables to occur both inside the traditional learning environment as well as beyond the classroom setting. When integrated into the classroom, in a responsible and appropriate manner, social media can serve to enhance learning opportunities to both teachers and students. The ability to locate resources in an instant, to connect and collaborate with people from around the world to expand global experiences, and to broaden one’s skills with technology can all come about through the integration of simply one social media tool.

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Deciding on how to use social networks in the classroom

Everyone can benefit from integrating technology into the classroom, it just depends on what the individual needs are.  A few years ago, I had a period of reflection on my teaching practice, both towards the instruction I was providing to my students as well as what I was getting back from them.

After some serious thinking, I realized there was an element of disconnect occurring quite often.  Outside of the class period, there was not a reliable, quick way that the students and I could communicate or collaborate.  Of course there was email, however, at times it proved unreliable and many students did not even have an email account.

I decided to focus on finding a way to improve how we communicated and search for a way to eliminate the disconnect.   I thought that by finding a resource through social media, I could foster the communication between myself and my students and make it easier to stay connected and help the students stay involved.

teacher-led-learning

The first step: Social Messaging

After some searching, I found a social messaging tool that I believe was the best choice I made at the beginning of this period of reflection, in pursuit of my ongoing professional development and search for better ways of providing opportunities for enhancing student learning. Simply by integrating a social messaging tool into my classroom, I saw immediate change and improvement in the learning environment.  I was able to connect with students and more importantly, the students were able to connect with me and seek help. They could quickly reach me to ask questions, clarify project requirements, or any other concern they may have. My main concern was being able to reach all students, to keep them informed and to be available for supporting them when needed.

The messaging tool that made the difference

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After doing my research, I found the social messaging tool Celly.  I chose to begin using Celly, initially as a quick and unique way to send reminders to students about tests or projects, or what course materials were needed for class.  At the beginning, this was the reason I sought to integrate social media into my classroom, to bridge the disconnect that I felt was occurring.  As time passed, I began to see so many additional possibilities and the student response to it was fantastic.

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In addition to reminders, I also used it to send direct messages to students about what they had missed if they were absent and it enabled students to send a direct message to me with any questions or concerns they had, at any time.  The nice thing about Celly, as well as other messaging tools, is that it is simple to use and is not specific to certain devices It is an app for the Droid system, iOs systems, and web based. Class messages can be sent as texts and emails as well.  There is not an exchange of cell phone numbers, so there are not any privacy concerns with this being similar to a traditional text message.  Over the course of my use of Celly, I have expanded the uses for it.  I use it for the Spanish Club and for special events such as student showcases to create small groups for communicating.  I find it to be extremely beneficial for so many reasons and continue to find new ways to use it to benefit the students’ experiences in my classroom.

So why do I believe in social media use in the classroom?

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Using social media has the potential to raise the learning that occurs, lead to greater expression and creativity and innovation in the classroom.  Through messaging, students can reach me when needed, questions will not go unanswered until the next morning, after the weekend, or after a long break.  I can share links to helpful websites or post photos of a forgotten worksheet through the app instantly.   Students can share links to projects they have created for me to take a quick look. Often when students begin using a new presentation tool, I will receive many messages asking for guidance, and I really love being able to respond and help them along the way.  A few students had been working with Visme for the first time and were excited to share their work for many reasons. They liked being able to send the link directly to me through Celly, but they really liked creating projects using Visme because of the diverse selection of templates and icons, especially the social media and technology icons, for some of their projects dealing with life in the future.  Using tools like these definitely promote student creativity, collaboration, and their ability to complete a variety of tasks involving research and problem solving.

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As a class, we can have backchannel discussions during presentations or videos or take a poll during class and have instant results, right in our hands. The possibilities are endless and depending on the educator and students’ needs,  lend themselves to high levels of creativity and innovation.  The ISTE standards  are met when social media like this is integrated into the classroom, and communication and collaboration are enhanced.

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Learning does not stop

All of these capabilities enable learning to continue without trying to race against the clock.  Diverse social media tools allow students to have access to information and sources of help when they need it, without the time or spatial restriction of the classroom setting.  Questions do not have to wait and learning can still take place outside of the class period. Students who otherwise may not speak in class or are timid about asking for help, have the perfect means to use their voice through social media.  The use of Celly or any other social media communication tool, in particular, a messaging service, will increase student participation, engagement and bring out the voice in each student.

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Things to consider

Of course with any new technology integration into the classroom, there are some precautions that must be taken.  Teachers must have the knowledge needed to integrate the tool into their classroom and model appropriate and responsible use for the students.  Students must learn the rules of digital citizenship and be comfortable using the tool in connection with their learning. There have to be clear procedures in place.  Students are free to send messages at any time, with the understanding that some sent late night may go unanswered until the next day.  But they know that they will have an answer, that there will be communication.

There are numerous possibilities for moderating the communication, depending on the needs of the educator and students, and settings can be appropriately adjusted for open, curated or private chat.  In addition to providing the enhanced learning time and place, it does meet several of the vital 21st century technology skills and ISTE student standards. Use of social media can help to engage students, provide them with real world experiences and begin to create an online presence.  Students can connect and collaborate with each other and access information when needed, instantly.  It inspires creativity, innovation, problem solving and engages students in their learning.

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Adding more technology into the classroom

The best advice I can offer is to find one way to start integrating technology into the classroom.  Think about an area where the students could benefit.  It could be through social networking tools such as Celly in my case, or using Twitter or Instagram, it could be through alternate assessments done with online tools rather than traditional paper and pencil formats.  It is all about making the learning potential increase and providing more opportunities for students to be engaged and use their voice and prepare for the future.

This was just the first step in the integration of social media into my classroom, since then I have seen the benefits through the addition of many other tools aimed at creativity, communication and collaboration.  Blogging, Wikispaces, Digital Portfolios, all enable students to use their voice and be engaged through technology.  It enables the classroom to span beyond a physical space, into the world and without limitations of time of day or place. Initially for my classroom, Celly was the way to establish connections within the classroom and create personalized experiences as well.  There are many other great choices in social media that are equally as beneficial for classroom use and selecting the right one depends on the needs of the educator and the students.

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Final thoughts

Simply by integrating this one form of social networking opened the door to a world of possibilities. Since taking that first step, taking a risk with a tool that I had not used, led to positive changes in my practice as a teacher, in the education and experiences I can provide for my students, and continues to broaden our capabilities all available through the device held in the palm of our hand. The advantages to social networking in any field are endless, but in the field of education, integrating a method of communication through technology can truly serve to engage students and lead to incredible learning potential and adventures.

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References:

http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students

http://www.edudemic.com/16-best-social-media-resources-of-2015/

www.wikispaces.com

www.kidblog.org

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGwQTN5-GYY

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We’re stingy and don’t share emails with anyone.

About the Author

Rachelle Poth is a Spanish Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an attorney and earned her Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and recently received the Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Duquesne.

She enjoys presenting at conferences on technology and learning more ways to advance student learning. Connect with her on Twitter @rdene915.

2 responses to “Why Social Networks enable and enhance greater communication in classrooms and promote learning”

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