What a difference a decade makes.
In 2006, Facebook ceased being the sole preserve of students (and the few tech-industry employees hip enough to know about it), opening its portals to the entire general public over the age of 13. In the 10 years that have elapsed since, the way we think about communication and interaction in the real world as well as the virtual one has evolved considerably.
Your students are already on social media. It’s a gathering place for them – where plans are made, memories are shared, and sometimes mischief is celebrated! So if you’re not already doing so, why not harness their tech-savvy and online social awareness to meet them “where they are”?
The whys and hows
In a 2011 article, EdTech blogger Adam Renfro gave us a look at the still-emerging social media landscape and why it was important for educators to be on board then. Still free of charge and even more ubiquitous than ever (now including mobile devices), the abiding value that social media continue to offer is engagement.
We’ve seen it develop organically in nearly all of our interactions since the mid-aughts. The student-teacher relationship is no different. Whereas once teachers and students could only meaningfully interact during the 8 to 3:30 school-day or via landline telephone for emergencies, today that interaction could be as simple as a tweet or a private Facebook message.
An all-inclusive resort
The group engagement factor is even more revolutionary, in contrast to times past. Ever thought of creating a Facebook group for your students as a virtual classroom? There it is! Or how about posting quizzes, assignments, and other key information for students via Twitter feed? Done!
Of course, the various social platforms each have different types of interactivity, suitable for different purposes. Where Facebook, with its timelines (formerly known as walls) has been all about give-and-take discussion from the start, Twitter has been described as “a firehose of information” where the flow has typically been one-way—although that’s changing as new functionalities are added.
The strength of Instagram is that it’s entirely visual, and most people — including many of your students — tend to learn visually. And then there’s Pinterest: if ever a platform were developed that lends itself perfectly to the in-depth study and discussion of a particular subject à la academe, Pinterest is probably it! And while you’re at it, remember you can always connect with your colleagues — fellow teachers and administrators — on LinkedIn. A helpful overview webinar for how to employ social media appears here, compliments of Marygrove College.
Making it worthwhile
All in all, your social (online) presence is an extension of your “brand” as a teacher. Bearing in mind the bottom line, the various social platforms make it easy for you to gauge the real value of your engagement efforts. Are students actually visiting your page and viewing your content? Facebook Pages (as opposed to just personal profiles) include a number of tools for measuring these metrics, as do Twitter, LinkedIn, and the others. This way, you’ll know that you’re not just wasting keystrokes talking to the ether. There’s an actual online audience, waiting to hear from you!
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