Social media is a huge part of my life. I’ve been on Facebook for years, have been blogging since 2007, and tweet daily. I will be presenting at this year’s NCTE convention and my focus is on Twitter. So it’s always been hard for me to teach without social media. When I taught middle school it was a bit easier, as those students were technically not old enough to be members of most social media websites. But teaching high school, it seemed silly to create “new” social media websites where I could have my students interact. I used Edmodo last year and really liked it, except for the fact that it required my students to go to a separate website, create a login and password, and remember to check that site daily. I’m not naive- I know that a website forced on students by teachers is not necessarily going to become part of their most-visited websites list. I had plenty of students who checked the site daily, but I also had a good number who rarely signed in. I found myself constantly reminding them to check the website, which seemed silly in this day and age when most of my kids have smartphones with them at all times.
This year, I planned to use a free education Ning, but even that didn’t satisfy all my needs. Again, it meant another login and password to remember, another website to check, and shoving a new form of social media down my students’ throats. I worked on the Ning all summer, but it just didn’t click with me. However, I was prepared to make it work.
Then, I got some great news. Our district made the decision this summer and removed the firewall that blocked social networking websites. Woohoo! I immediately got to work. Now, instead of dragging reluctant students to hordes of new websites (inevitably, different social media for different teachers, every year), we can meet students where they already are. I am now the proud maintainer of a Facebook group for my English I class and Facebook group for my English IV class. Facebook is a part of my students’ daily lives, and they check it multiple times each day. By meeting them where they already are, I can make our class a part of their lives outside the 4 walls of my classroom. I am meeting them where they are.
And honestly? It’s where I am, too.
I admit that remembering to sign on to various websites in order to post homework and reminders was driving me crazy, too. Facebook is a natural extension of my digital life and has been for years. Now, I can post Friday Reads, discussions, cool articles, etc without having to go to a separate site in the hopes that my kids log on and check it. And I don’t have to rely on email to get messages out. They don’t always check their email. But I know they are logging on to Facebook! And the Facebook page is perfect because it allows users to become fans, but access to the individual profile pages are limited.
I will not be relying solely on Facebook, of course. At the beginning of the year not all my freshman use Facebook. It won’t be required for the class and instead will be one outlet we have, alongside our school bulletin board system/email. All homework assignments will be posted on my wiki (another new venture for me!) which uses a google calendar (another natural extension of my digital life). All students can access the wiki from home and school and will be fine if that’s all they check. But I am looking forward to bringing in the Facebook angle. And eventually other social media.
Another reason I am glad to to bring social media into the classroom is that it will open the door to talking about digital citizenship. How do we communicate online? What is appropriate? We can do more than just talk- we can actually use the social media. As I told my students today, by the time they are applying for jobs they will have a digital footprint of over a decade!
Needless to say, I am thrilled and looking forward to integrating more social media this year. I’ve already posted our summer reading survey on the English I Facebook page and 39 students have completed it. That’s a much faster turn-around than last year, when I posted on Edmodo. Woohoo!
What about you? How do you use, plan to use, or wish you could use social media in the classroom this year?