educationtechnews.comAnd here's why schools should use social networks ...

And here’s why schools should use social networks …

May 20, 2010 by Claire Knight
Posted in: Internet

Forbid Facebook? That’s what one New Jersey principal recommended in an e-mail to parents. But is that really a good idea?

Let’s face it: Technology isn’t going anywhere — and that’s a good thing!

Social media has its downside, but it also offers so many tools. Implementing these tools in the classroom will help students use technology responsibly — and learn a few things while they’re at it.

Here are six ways to integrate tech tools into class assignments — and engage students in new ways:

  1. Bring classic literature into the 21st century. Have students create a Facebook page for a character from a literary work that the class is studying. Be specific about what students should include on their characters’ profiles.  Here’s an example.
  2. Study the most up-to-date current events. Twitter‘s public timeline shows the most recent tweets from all over the world. Discussing world events as they happen strengthens students’ global awareness.
  3. Teach professionalism. Encourage graduating students to create professional profiles on LinkedIn. Whether students are graduating from high school or college, they will benefit from building a professional network.
  4. Create a class story. Have the class write a collective fictional story on Twitter, using Twittory. Use an original hashtag to help students keep up with the ongoing storyline. In addition to being a fun assignment, it builds effective communication skills — students will have to work out their “creative differences.”
  5. Build students’ retention. Assign homework that requires students to tweet one thing discussed in class that day. Bonus: This assignment makes it easier for shy students to participate.
  6. Poll the class. Using Facebook’s Poll app in the classroom helps students understand how their opinions relate to the lessons. It’s a win-win situation. Poll findings that support the lesson reinforce it, and findings that dispute the lesson encourage debate.

Any others we left out? Share how your school uses social media in the classroom in our comments section below.

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  • Rob

    facebook is a social networking tool, not an educational resource, look up Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Management System, Blended Learning, Moodle is developed with education in mind and it’s free, why bend facebook into being a bad learning environment? yes ban it from school is recreational (at best)

  • MarkG

    I am sometimes slow to adopt new technology. I always find myself asking how each piece of technology is going to improve my life. So, I’m not very much of a visionary in this realm. Facebook and Twitter so far have failed to produce any value in my life or my relationships.

    So, my response to this article is basically:

    Yes, those are creative ideas. But why should the school be trying to do these things? For all 6 of the above ideas, they all seem to be using the technology for the technology’s sake. Every one of those assignments can very easily be done, and derive what I perceive to be the educational experience, without the gratuitous addition of those web-based technologies. Instead, interjecting facebook or twitter into these assignments seems only to add a participation barrier to those students who might not have or want an account on these services. And keep in mind that these services are commercial ventures.

  • pat Flynn

    I use Edmodo. It is a free and very facebook like, but for education use.
    Take A look at it

  • Tony Daniels

    H Rob,

    I agree with you in part although Facebook also allows you to keep tabs with a range of organisations that have Facebook pages. For example, I keep abreast of UK and World news via the BBC Facebook page. I also receive news information from a range of pages related to my interests in Cycling, Music and Politics. If you want to use Facebook purely for Social Networkinbg you can, but it’s so much more than that! The advantage of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, etc., over the systems you mention is that they require minimal set-up and absolutely no cost. A Learning Management or Blended Learning system requires a huge investment in either cash and/or time to configure and maintain! And, does a school really need to waste money on these technologies when there is so much out there that is free!

  • Linda Garlinger

    As a Career Director at a university I encourage students to use Facebook to their advantage. My advice is to remove all the “party” photos and create a facebook page that markets your skills. For example: If you are an Education Major and want to be a teacher, post photos of you as a camp counselor, a tutor, field trip oprganizer, sunday school teacher or volunteer working with children. ;Make it your marketing tool and encourage potential employers to view it.
    Keep the private stuff private and off the internet.

  • Joe

    Facebook and Twitter are the way young people communicate, facebook more-so. Profs should definitely look into ways of using social media in their teaching, but as some people pointed out, these are corporations that are in the business of making money off of you’re personal information. Period. They aren’t designed for educational purpose, not to mention, people pay a shit-ton of money to go to post secondary education; who wants their time to be spent creating profiles on a private company’s site?

    Our school is taking an initiative to have a student only social media network that is secured by the Student Union. It’s going to offer the social side of a public profile, photo/video blogs, open forum – as well as the College and Student Union side with an online used book store, online RSS feeds of events, club listings/threads and lots more. Social media is the way that the average college/university student goes about everyday life; We need to create a counterpart to Facebook that is secure for education and privacy purposes.

  • Herb

    I agree that all these thing can be better handled with a course management system or a closed social network like Still not convinced of Facebook’s validity as an educational tool.

  • Tom

    What about all of the videos that come across the Facebook screens that show people in car accidents where they die or videos showing accidents where people are seriously injured? There is no way to protect students from possibly seeing these types of videos. As an educator, there is no way I want a parent complaining about seeing something like that in my classroom.

  • Jeff

    I have a problem with the premise set out in the the beginning of the article–a clear case of begging the question–”technology isn’t going anywhere–and that’s a good thing.” The problem with this notion, and the accepted notion that educators should simply embrace technology, specifically social networking sites, in the classroom as inevitable, ignores any discussion of its pedagogical value and presumes value based on an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Educators should be proactive, not reactive. Research should lead the implementation of new tools for valid educational reasons. The reasons should not be shoehorned into an approach simply because “all the cool kids are doing it.” Unfortunately, much of educational technology uses the latter.

  • Andrew Schiestel | tbk Creative

    Great article. The Principal suggesting the banning of facebook reminds me of Canada Post wanting to take over control of emails 20 years ago and charge per email sent or the music industry trying to hang on to their dying dinosaur way of doing business.

    I’m for embracing new media. It’s here to stay.

  • Terri Main

    I have used FB and Twitter extensively. I know some say, well, there’s this special, sanitized, closed social network we can use with only our students, but that’s not where the students go. It’s like “educational” movies or anything else that students think those in charge are trying to control.

    Here’s the thing. Students are on FB because it is where they meet their friends ALL their friends and not just the ones in that class or that school. Going to a school run social network is more like school work than socializing. It’s an invasion medium going where your students already are helping them learn in an environment where they are already comfortable.

    Also, it is a perfect opportunity to teach proper use of these powerful tools. You can show them how to set the privacy settings, what to reveal and what not to reveal, how to set up business or other type of interest/fan pages which are becoming standard marketing tools for business.

    My students honestly get more of the announcments I put out on FB than those that they get on BlackBoard.


  • Rob

    Hi Tony, – I’m not disputing the merits of FB or social networking in general (and VLE’s are also free with minimal setup). I’m disputing it’s merits as and educational tool, communication about education – fine, but if your using FB to actually teach a subject other than social networking then your going the long way round in my opinion, I’m not saying you can’t learn on facebook- but it would make teaching anything pretty tough, except teaching about yourself- it’s an image tool

  • Paco Ruiz

    A piece of info you may want to consider.

    Last semester I taught a (college) class where about half the students had their laptops on all the time. I don’t know if they were on facebook or not, but they seemed to be looking more at the screen than at me. With one exception, the students with the laptops ended up at the bottom of the grade scale, those without them at the top, based on their exams and deliverables.

    Next semester, I will be banning laptops from my lecture classes until I, or someone else, can figure out a solution.

  • John

    My school district blocks all social websites. Thank God! It is difficult enough creating interesting, relevant lessons and monitoring student activities without having to deal with the threats of social networking.

    I agree with the position that two way social networking HAS NO PLACE IN SCHOOLS. There are plenty enough quality electronic communications programs out there to meet all curricular requirements and to so so quite safely.

    There is a huge problem of technology growing faster than our ability to make intelligent decisions about how and when to weild it. Social networking in schools is exactly this. I am a proponent of studying this tool and releasing it into curriculum as a one way communications programs. Coupled with traditional e-mail, and slowly blending it into our toolkit. This positions, unfortunately, has not been held by many schools and districts. Cyber bullying, solicitation, kidnapping and all manner of psychological and physicological damage is being done by our misuse and misunderstanding of the power and dangers of this medium

  • Gregory Rogers

    My students major in Intelligence and National Security and it is not such a good idea to publish anything about themselves. They need not publish where they are going to work or who their friends are or where they went to school or their future intentions. Certainly photographs of themselves, their friends or where they have visited shouldnot be on any social network. It should be noted to those who seem to adore virtual friends that not everone is in the “here I am, this is what I do business.”

  • Jenny H.

    There are positive and negatives to everything! When talking about social networking, just like their are rules and laws for everything, their would need to be rules and/or laws, etc for social networking (whether they are by each individual school or through the state or government). I think that because it is the 21st century we need to adapt to what our students “world” is like and I like to believe it can be done in a tactful way. Yes you are going to have “Cyber” bullies, just like in real life their are bullies. I believe it is time for our education system to look beyond the negatives and think about our students and their futures and needs. For our students, “social networking” is the future! The future is starting to happen right now. You can try to pretend it isn’t, but if you do “good luck” because sooner or later you will run into it whether you like it or not. So why not dive in and explore the many options social networking has to offer for your students? If you take a look at all the options and ideas above of the many ways students can be a part of 21st century technology tools, I believe it will be then that teachers and administrators will soon start to realize that it’s not such a bad idea after all.
    My last and final thought of social networking is that if administrators or teachers truly believe that having students use social networking in the classroom as a negative or poor idea, then I think those people do not realize the era of the world they are living in right now. Times are a “changin’” people. Change is good and it is needed for our society to continue to thrive and hopefully make the world a better place.

  • Jennifer C.

    Educational institutions and schools should be careful using social networking sites for educational purposes. Just thinking about the high school students I teach….they are so distracted by social situations and I believe it would interfere with classroom practices. Students in my high school all have their own laptops in the classroom and even with facebook and my space blocked, they find innovative ways to be distracted from classroom activities on their computers. I do believe the other similar websites like Edmondo would be a better fit because the tempation for distraction is reduced. I think the ideas listed above are good in theory, but as an experienced teacher I don’t believe they are completely realistic.

  • Jared L.

    In the article above Warner mentions a principal that asks parents to forbid facebook in their homes. I believe that our schools need to act similar to our parents- you need to be aware of what your child or student is doing when they are on the internet and it is OK to guide the child’s internet use just like teachers can guide their learning. Social Networking is going to be in our lives for a long time. As teachers, we need to learn to adapt to what our culture or society is doing at the time to help engage students. Social Networking can be used as a great learning tool as long as the teacher has the ability to guide the students internet and learning.

    In this article Warner also mentions twitter as a homework assignement. I don’t have any moral issues with tweeting but my issue comes with home resources. My question is:

    What do you do when the entire class does not share the same technology resources at home?

    Unless you work in a district where students all have that proper technology at home is seems like an unrealistic assignment.

  • Carolyn

    The ideas in the original article are interesting and innovative, and in the right hands, would be a great way for students to become engaged in a lesson or assessment. Mr. Featherstone, for instance, seems to be very adept at social networking, and has probably trained his students well. If I were to copy his idea for my own use, I’m sure it would be much less successful because I am not a blogger and my FB use is minimal. As a primary school teacher, I would not use social media because the majority of my students are not allowed to use it. Overall, I think it is too soon to start using this in an educational setting. There are too many unknown variables and opportunities for dangerous interactions, not to mention FB’s annoying propensity to make keeping things truly private next to impossible. I haven’t looked into Edmodo yet, so maybe that would be more appropriate.

  • Karen W.

    I believe that schools, through guidance lessons and tech classes, should teach the rules governing social networking etiquette to the students. I’m not sure I am on board with local school districts opening up the network systems to allow students to access these social networks during the school day. I understand that these sites COULD be useful for educational purposes, but I also agree that there are probably “other” educational tools that could be used in a similar fashion. Children in today’s world are much more computer savy than and I, so if I can learn how to use social networking sites, these children will figure it out. Safety should be the first priority, and schools should take on the responsibility for this aspect, but actual use should be reserved for the home environment. Children should be engaged in face-to-face social networking when in school. Our children are losing the ability (or never learing it) to carry-on verbal conversation with others.

  • Karen W

    I believe students should be taught social networking etiquette and safety, through school guidance lessons and technology classes, but I don’t think districts should open up the ability for children to “social network” during school. I agree that these sites COULD be used for educational purposes, but I also think that there are tools out there that simulate social networking in a safer, more educationally based manner. Today’s generation will learn how to navigate these sites with no problem. If children are taught the basics in how to treat people, how to resolve conflict, and how to be respectful in all parts of their lives, then they will know that this means on social networking sites as well. Children are losing the ability to verbally communicate with people and I think, as educators, we need to foster this skill. When it comes to social networking, I think school districts should be responsible for “teaching” safety, but the ability to access the sites should be left for the home environment with parent supervision.

  • Bonnie

    Yes, we are in the 21st century. and social networking is the future. Education is changing and we need to keep up with modern technology. However, I believe social networking-FaceBook/Twitter is not appropriate for the elementary setting. It is more appropriate for older students. They must be taught the appropriate networking skills and how be SAFE on the internet. Schools must inform/teach this aspect so students are aware of it.
    I like the idea of commenting on the days events of school. However, what about the students who do not have computers, let alone internet access? Will they be left out? Feel isolated? Poor? Too many of my students lack basic school supplies- crayons, pencils, scissors,…, how can schools expect famlilies to provide computers when they can’t or won’t provide the ‘basics’? The powers to be want schools make students/famililes feel good about themselves and be positive. How will this make they feel now?

  • Abdi

    Social-networking technology allows students receive feedback from teachers and help communication of teachers and parents. Though few students are not using for education, most of students use social-networking talk about educational topics or school work. It has positive role in students lives.
    A recent survey of American life found that 73% of online teen use social networking sites, the number will be growing. To BLOCK it, NO NO. It make sense for school to access appropriate social networking page rather than banning them entirely and design how to use in the class.

  • Amber

    Using social networking in the classroom is a wonderful, innovative way to learn and instruct. I do belive children in this time period should be exposed to the array of digital 21s century tools available. Schools are still operating under an 19th century, paper and pencil model. In order to fully embrace technology all avenues should be considered. However, there is a certain “creepiness” and mistrust that surrounds many social networking sites. Yes, utilizing the social networking sites mentioned would make student more engaged with the learning process, and facebook is more interactive than 1950′s history book. But how would schools protect students and teachers against the negative aspects of social networking? How would schools protect their identity and students/teachers identity as well? Also as a primary teacher how could I fit social networking into my instruction without the social netowrking taking “over” my instruction and being the main focus. I believe integrating social networking opportunties within instruction opens up many avenues. But it also opens up the murky, sometimes sinister side of social networking that we must protect our students from.

  • Nancy

    The idea of using social networking in education appears to be very controversial, but I do think that it may be useful because whether educators like social networking, students do. I currently have an online grade book that allows me to post grades, announcements, and communicate with students and parents. Very few students access their engrade account unless I remind them, but they seem to always be on facebook or some other social networking website. This makes me wonder if posting those announcements on facebook would be beneficial to students. Some people discuss the availability of resources and technology among some student populations and this is an issue for my students. For this reason, I do not believe that teachers could require daily access or assignments on social networking websites, but weekly ones would be possible. I think that if educators were progressive in their thinking they could turn social networking into an educational tool and experience for students. In reading this article and the additional posts I am interested in looking into the education based social networking sites as an alternative way to introduce students to positive and educational uses for web 2.0 tools.

  • Sherry

    Presently I am in limbo about using social-networking in schools at the middle level. I do know students are interested in just about anything involving technology as they share and talk about what is happenting in their circle of friends and community. Student engagement would increase in many subject areas with its use. One concern however is focused on students who do not have internet access and must use social-networking to complete classwork/homework requirements. Many families are facing finacial challenges themselves so it may be difficult to meet the technology aspect of education on the home front. Also, another concern is the whole issue of student responsibility and holding students accountable for appropriate usage because so much bullying is rampant with middle school age students on facebook etc. There definitly would be a need for educating students on the appropriate usage of social-networking for class assignments at the middle level!

  • Sharon

    I teach first grade in a low income area and I do not feel that the students need social-networking in school. Many of my students do not even own a computer, this would cause envy, and jealousy among the students if some were able to use social-networking and others were not. Most assignments that are given in school the children do not need facebook, twitter, myspace or any other networking source to complete their work. I feel that if social-networking is brought into the schools their will be alot of problems with students abusing the system. The younger grades do not need to use social-networking because they do not understand what it is all about.

  • Michael H

    I believe that social networking is definitely a good idea and can be used for “some” academic endeavors. Howver, I would personally have a problem trying to use it in my classroom simply because I do not beileve my grade level is responsible enough to even use it, additionally, not enough of my students even have access to computers outside of school. If teachers are going to use social networking to teach, 2 things need to be in place. First, the techer needs to really keep a cvlose eye on just what the students are doing online. Seceond, there needs to be access to computers for all students or thw assignment will be useless.

  • Virginel

    These are great ideas and suggestions to help teachers bring their students and classroom into the 21scentury. I know these ideas are just a tip of the iceberg for technology teaching strategies. However, students should be trained and understand the danger that exist when social networking is done irresponsibly. I work with HS students and not able to trust them on any social networking site and in my district all of the social networking sites are block. I am looking forward to be able to use social networking sites that are safe for students, teachers, and parents.

  • ritchie

    After reading this article, the examples of uses seem beneficial and engaging to students. They should be able to use the current forms of communication they are most comfortable with to address learning requirements. However, teachers must put strict regulations upon the content and usage in order to protect themselves from the possible dangers of bullying. I would encourage teachers to utilize social-networking in the classroom if they are prepared to lay the proper groundwork prior to utilizing.

  • Natacha

    Several things come to mind: 1. Any technology that ‘requires’ students (e.g. parents) to have a subscription (pay a fee) to a commercial service immediately raises issues of equity. I happen to work in a school district that educates many homeless children. 2. With sites such as Facebook, as I understand it, once content is posted it belongs to Facebook. They can use it when and however they choose in the future. 3. Their policies and practices can change and the teacher and school have no control of that, 4. Despite the tacit invalidating of their existence today, students who have disabilities involving processing written content offline, have no less difficulty processing it online. Contrary to popular comparisons of apples and oranges (e.g. student can’t read but they sure can play video games) reading a book and playing a video game do not necessarily use the same skill set.

  • Bunny

    Anything new and unfamiliar creates a sense of fear and mistrust. The design of social networking seems valid but the actual application can result in making inappropriate choices. I am so on the fence with this one. I can see the benefits of using this technology to enhance learning standards, but I have witnessed the dangers when individuals abuse these tools. Students are using social networking hard and heavy and as an educator it is crucial for us to be more than familiar with these networking websites. We should be educated and competent enough to operate this technology so we can educate students on the pros and cons of these services. The cons are abundant,(lack of privacy, internet predators) and monitoring is important, but the educational values are limitless and being able to have the students to utilize and integrate social networking with academics and career path choices can help stimulate student interest and promote successful educational goals.

  • Tabitha

    The creative use of the facebook page for a character in a book is really neat. I suggest using an educational version of facebook to prevent students from the bad side of facebook. I tried using facebook this year and parents had a fit about it, several very very upset that I was using a social networking site for the students. Social Networking isn’t going away so I just have to find ways to use it educationally.

  • shannon

    As an educator of 21st century learners we as teachers need to incorporate technology into daily lessons to keep students engaged. Today’s students are driven by technology. If you think about it everything entertaining to children involves technology (Facebook, Twitter, PS2, IPODS etc.) And while I am not saying we as educator need to entertain students we do need to “keep up with the times” and incorporate what are students are use to; technology. Let’s face it, technology is here to stay. Technology, if used appropriately can be a very successful learning tool.
    I currently employ various forms of technology (SMARTBOARD, elmo, lap tops) in my classroom, but have never incorporated the use of social networking sites. I personally believe social networking sites are for recreational use and should not be used in the classroom. There are far too many issues (privacy and inappropriate post) that could arise with the use of social networking sites in the classroom. And while the article did mention the use of some really neat and engaging ideas to use with social networking sites I as an educator am choosing to not incorporate the use of social networking in my classroom.

  • Cheree

    These are creative ways for using social networking systems, however, what is the primary reason for using these examples? If it is simply to be able to use these social networking systems then I do not think it is the best way to use valuable time in the classroom. It is important to remember that as educators, our first priority is to deliver a quality, valuable, and meaningful education. The use of social networking systems for the sake of using them should be left to the students for recreational purposes. If a social networking system is one of the better options for something you want to teach, then by all means, use it.

  • April

    I think the major appeal I see in using social networking sites in education is grabbing the interest of the students. I work in a high school setting and have seen many educators struggle with getting the kids interested in what they are learning. When you use tools such as face book and twitter, the students interest peak and they already feel a little comfort in using a tool they are familiar with. In a past post someone said they have to remind their students to check grades or class postings on their school site. If we could use an internet application that students are already on everyday, they might be more inclined to be more actively involved in their education. Of course you are always going to have negatives, but I think in this case those trying to fight this fight are facing an up hill battle.

  • Joy

    I am not sure how I feel about using social networking in schools. I guess teaching first grade it might not be appropriate to use, or even realistic. In the upper grades there are both pros and cons to using social networking. The article offered many great ideas. In my school district all social networking sites are blocked, so I am not sure that any of the suggestions would be beneficial.

    Technology is here and IS NOT going anywhere. As educators we must figure out how to make it work in our classrooms. As time goes on it will become the focal point in all learning environments. I guess we have to embrace it, even if we don’t know how we feel about it.

  • Michele

    I think the ideas in this article are creative and interesting. The premise behind the assignments seems to be how to reach students in their own, familiar method of communicating. This type of communication is definitely going to be necessary for the 21st century learner. My daughter (8th grade) had to make a FB page for a “Holocaust survivor.” She thought it was tedious and required a lot of work that, although creative, did not really teach her much. So, assignments like this one need to be carefully constructed to be sure that the desired learning outcome is built into the assignment. Also, something like this could take one student an hour and another student several days. Therefore it is a good idea to use this type of assignment for students only when it is a good fit with their learning profiles. I don’t know much about twitter and asked several students about it and I didn’t find anyone who uses it. I do, however, like the idea of increasing global awareness. Students in our district often haven’t experienced anything outside of their neighborhood, so there is no comprehension that the problems in the rest of the world are very real and can affect them. I doubt that I will use these strategies in my classroom, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good strategies.

  • Lyndsay

    We currently live in a digital age where students are driven by technology. These students are part of the “net generation where cell phones, iPods, gaming systems, social media, and computers are used on a daily basis for entertainment purposes. As an educator, I understand that we need to take a closer look at incorporating these types of technologies in our classroom to motivate and engage our students. Technology is here to stay and we as teachers need to embrace it. However, as an elementary school teacher, some of these technologies are not appropriate or even beneficial to my students. More specifically, I don’t see any educational value in using social networking sites in the classroom especially at the elementary level. There are too many risks involved in using these social networking sites at school. Since these social networking sites can be used by anyone, teachers lack the control needed to protect the privacy of their students. Even if teachers wanted to use these sites, most of the social networking sites are blocked from student access. Furthermore, the suggested activities can be done using other types of technologies not just a social networking site.

  • Paula

    I enjoy getting on Facebook as way of keeping up with family and friends. I have good friends and family members who feel it is too public and do not feel comfortable using it. Requiring students to use social networking media may not be a good idea. Students in my school are definitely on Facebook and other sites. We had an incident that invovled students from another middle school show at my school with a gun over a threat that played out on Facebook. I know this is probably not the only example of students using social media in a harmful way.

    I do agree that students need to know how to be responsible and safe when using the internet. This should be the role of schools to teach proper use of the internet.

  • Jeni

    I teach second grade and don’t see the benefit of exposing these young children to Facebook. For older students this may be an option, but I still don’t know that there is a place for Facebook in the schools. There are enough resources available and this just adds one more “danger” that students and parents need to worry about if a school requires an account. I teach in a catholic school and our students are discouraged from having an account and teachers are prohibited from having a Facebook account. We all accept this as a condition of emplyment and I haven’t really heard any complaints.

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