It’s never too late to start. Whether you’re focusing on the final stretch of this school year or already thinking of the next, your classroom will never be the same once you take the leap to social learning. Here are six reasons you should use social tools in the classroom.
To help students create a positive digital footprint.
Using social media in your classroom gives students valuable guided practice. According to recent polls, one-third of universities in the United States check the online profiles and activity of prospective students to see if they are a good fit for their schools. And a third of those stumble on material that makes them think, “Hey, we don’t want this kid at our school!” It’s clear that our students need skills in digital citizenship.
To meet students where they are.
Chances are, your students are already using social media. When you incorporate social tools into the classroom, learning becomes more student centered and aligned to the way they live their lives. It offers students and teachers a chance to immediately connect, share information and make the mind-blowing awesomeness of the internet a bit more personal and relevant to class life.
To power up your project-based learning.Tools like Edmodo can support some of the biggest challenges that project-based learning presents, like assessment and organization. PBL is powerful, but it is also messy. Unlike worksheets, which lend themselves easily to tracking and assessment, authentic projects have a myriad of simultaneous tasks that are often unique to each group member. Working in a social learning environment helps educators organize tasks through the use of groups, archived activity, peer comments and moderated discussion.
To supercharge differentiation.
Social learning lends itself especially well to differentiated instruction. Use digital folders to set up modules of sequential activities. A simple way to do this is to number the items in a particular folder to indicate that the tasks need to be done in sequence. You can even shift the work to more advanced students by having them identify useful resources and set up learning module folders for others.
To get gamified!
One of the most exciting trends in commerce and education is gamification. Strictly speaking, this refers to adding game elements and game thinking to nongame environments. In learning, it can encourage problem solving and deepen engagement. Game designer and gaming advocate Jane McGonigal argues that we need to challenge the assumption that games are a waste of time. Kids like games, McGonigal says, because they offer something that all humans desire: hard work, blissful productivity, immediate visual feedback, community, meaningful collaboration and epic meaning. Injecting a strategic dose of play and games can add just the right spark to your social learning classroom.
To plug into the power of professional learning communities.
Another powerful benefit of using a social learning environment is the way it lets you network with other educators and share resources. The power is in the connection. At the heart of the ISTE Standards for students, teachers, administrators and coaches is the underlying importance of connection — to creativity, critical thinking, our own literacy in a digital space and, more broadly, our connections to others. In the 21st century, we increasingly are our connections, so we need to prioritize them.
Raphael Raphael, Ph.D., is co-author of the ISTE bookLet's Get Social: The Educator's Guide to Edmodo. He has been an educator for 20 years in the United States and around the world. He is also associate editor for the journal Review of Disability Studies and the co-editor of DIS/ART: The Journal of Disability Culture and the Visual Arts.
Ginger Carlson is co-author of the ISTE book Let's Get Social: The Educator's Guide to Edmodo. She has over 20 years’ experience working with schools, families and educational organizations around the world. She is the author of Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative and Naturally Curious Children and Just Add Wonder: Cooking Activities to Nurture and Nourish the Creative Child.