Why I Use Social Media in My Classes


Some disclaimers:
I teach college.  So every kid has a phone.  Heck, every kid has a nicer phone than I do.  But I digress.
I teach media courses.  So we talk about the media.  Cell phones are media tools, and they are the primary social media access tool for my students.  It’s content-related for my discipline.

That being said, here are my reasons:
1.  The classroom engagement functions provided by phones and apps/websites make it almost irresponsible to NOT use them.  Sites like Mentimeter, PollEverywhere and Kahoot enable the students to partipate in class in a whole new way.  Not to mention class discussions we have onTwitter (without using our voices!) using the class hashtag and fun sites like TweetBeam.  Want to see your introverts come to life in class?  Do a Twitter discussion.  Their tweets will be the most thoughtful and interesting.  Trust me.

2.  It’s selfish on my part.   There’s nothing more fun to say to 75 college students in a huge room than “GET YOUR PHONES OUT!”  I absolutely love saying that.  You know why?  It tells them that I am trying to meet them where they are.

3.  I don’t want them to think I am some “sage on the stage”, up in front barking out knowledge like they are little sponges just waiting to hear the dulcet tones of my voice.  (Actually, I walk around while I bark/lecture).   Lecture has its place.  But not for 75 minutes.  A quick cell phone activity breaks up the class, re-engages them, and shows them that I am interested in connecting with them through a medium that they love.

4.  It’s a perfect place to demonstrate and model appropriate cell phone use.  If a student is texting someone while I am standing right by them, of course I call them out on it because that is rude.  But prohibiting phones in class is wasting your energy as an instructor.  Students having their phones is the equivalent to them having their arms attached.  And if they’re playing on their phones, I see it as a failure on MY part, not theirs.  If my classes were good enough, they wouldn’t be surfing.

Best thing ever written on one of my course evals?  “Her classes were so great I never played on my phone one single time.”

5.  I am constantly telling my students that they need “internal bullshit detectors” activated at all times.  (If I was K-12 I’d have to think of a different way to say that!)  What better way for them to discern & analyze information in real time?  How are phones different than my students having laptops open all the time?  Same thing.  Same internet.  Same access.  Same critical evaluation skills required.

6.  This reason will be seen as a copout.  Regardless of what any teacher says or plans, students have their phones.  I’ve had colleagues say “They’re not allowed to have their phones in class”…but who are they kidding?  Of course the students have their phones.  My philosophy is to stop fighting the battle.  It’s exhausting and only demonstrates a digital disconnect between an instructor and a student.

7.  My students live on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.  Although I haven’t mastered the Snapchat Story feature (be very afraid for when I do!)  I encourage them to use these sites to share media examples that they find when we are NOT in class, by using our class hashtag.  Doing this demonstrates the fact that learning happens 24/7, not just within the time and walls of the classroom.

I’m sure I have other reasons and I’m sure everyone has different situations and scenarios.  But the phones and social media work for ME.

Ways to use the phones in class:
Twitter discussions using TweetBeam or TwitterFall
Real-time polling like Mentimeter & PollEverywhere
Put QR codes in your syllabus instead of links so they can access info right away
Use Remind to send out messages to students or links to Padlets before class even begins
Use video/audio features to do engagement activities within class
Have students double-check facts in lecture or the book
Follow people on Twitter who are experts in the field, see if they’ll respond to questions
Interactive quiz games like Kahoot (even my college kids flip over Kahoot)
Set up a Today’s Meet site for your class

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