Gone are the days when the teacher-student connection happens for 45 minutes a day. Social media and apps have transformed the way that teachers interact with their students. Leveraging tools at our fingertips provide multiple avenues to provide reminders, present ideas, conduct online discussions outside of the classroom and most importantly, build relationships. As Sean Slade wrote at the Huffington Post, there are several critical reasons why relationships in school matter.
One of my favorite online courses I teach is titled “Social Media in the Classroom”. The course is designed to push educators to utilize social media to enhance learning, build professional learning communities, (PLN), and find endless educational resources that impact their teaching. The results of this four week long course is so interesting to me. I watch teachers go from “I have a Twitter account, but don’t really use it”, to “I can’t live without my PLN!” They become more connected to their students through the social media outlets as well.
Here are five reasons to be connected to your students on a deeper level through social media outlets.
Relationship Building. Making emotional connections to our students is critical to learning. Study after study has shown that when students feel safe and cared for they are more likely to master curricular content and enjoy the process of learning. Finding avenues on social media to connect with kids in a positive way will help build relationships outside of the classroom, helping them learn more when they are with you. Using Instagram to showcase student work and ideas is an excellent way to provide positive reinforcement to students. Using a classroom hashtag on Twitter can build a stronger community with your classes as well.
Understand their Sandbox. When teachers understand where students “hangout” it provides a context for what they are talking about at school. I am not suggesting that you start snap-chatting up all your students. Simply, understand the platforms they are using and how it is impacting their lives. Don’t turn a blind eye. One of the benefits of social media is that now everything becomes open and transparent. With a quick search of a hashtag or a user profile, the obvious becomes, well, obvious. It is difficult to hide the bullies or inappropriate posts happening on social media with kids, presenting opportunities for mentoring or discussions on the appropriate ways to use social media.
Be Transparent. Many educators desire having two separate Twitter accounts. When I hear this I often wonder, “Why? Who are you following and what are you posting?” Maybe you should just clean up your own online junk and try again. Share a little about your life in an appropriate manner so your students can learn about you as a human. What are you proud of? What motivates you to get up each day and teach your students? Who is your hero? Leverage things like Facebook and Twitter to showcase your own brand of yourself.
I love reading my daughter’s Instagram and Twitter feed because it reminds me how funny and clever she is. It should be the same with you. Who are you and what are you about? Students appreciate the human side of their teachers.
Be Available. Social media tools make you automatically available 24/7 if you choose to be. This can be good and bad all at the same time. Technology should always help you work smarter and not harder. Educators can now respond more quickly to issues and questions that arise each day. For that matter, I watch teenagers help each other out all the time with immediacy through Snapchat, texting, and Twitter. It takes a lot of pressure off kids by knowing that there is always someone available to help out when needed whether its a homework question or a scheduling question.
Learn from Them. Students these days are simply amazing. Because of the tools they have at their fingertips, they are able to create and publish like never before. If you are never in their sandbox, how will you truly understand what they are doing and in turn learn from them. Movements like the Maker Movement, Coding, and online publishing have created a generation of doers. What are your students doing outside of the classroom and how are they sharing? Maybe you could be the instigator needed to push them to share their genius and talents.
Whatever your excuse is to not touching social media as an educator, I urge you to reconsider how it could impact your life on a positive note. As one of my former students stated at the end of class, “I found out what Twitter was all about and enjoy viewing it every day. Thanks again for giving me a positive outlook on life!” Now that is a positive message!
How has Twitter enlightened you as an educator? Leave me a comment below and follow me Twitter @jennyktechin.