#SMCEDU Chat: Integrating social media into the classroom

Social Media Club Education Connection (aka #SMCEDU) is a national initiative whose goal is to unite educators, students, and professionals to further the development of social media curriculum in our schools, enabling a wider network of learning and workforce preparedness.

#SMCEDU is a part of Social Media Club, a nonprofit organization that is working to promote media literacy and connect people to share what they are learning about social media.

During Monday’s #SMCEDU chat, we discussed the integration of social media into classrooms. To get the conversation started, we referred to this recent post from Mashable detailing some tips:

  • Let down filters, cautiously
  • Add “digital citizenship” to the curriculum
  • Keep one eye on student conduct, the other on the law
  • Teach with social media

Click here for a full transcript of our chat.

I felt the most important part of today’s chat came with the confirmation from several participants that social media shouldn’t be used for the sake of using social media. Teachers must figure out what their teaching goals are, then see if social technologies fit into their ideal teaching environment. One of the main reasons we hear is to engage students.

Student engagement is one of the biggest sells of social media in the classroom, but there are many ways to do this. I’ve had professors that were charasmatic lecturers and were able to hold the attention of their students without cracking open a laptop or turning on a smartphone.

However, this isn’t every teacher, and the tools of communication and collaboration that social media provide can open up the classroom to many new voices, especially other teachers and students.

Which leads to another set of issues, mainly regarding privacy: Do you want your class discussion to be public or private? Like many issues, context provides direction. If the class is in the communications field (e.g., public relations), it would serve students greatly to build a public portfolio while in school. In another example, students in a literature class struggling to understand material might not want their exploratory blog posts reviewed by the public eye; it really depends on the goals of the class and preferences of both educators and students.

Another important issue is the idea of digital citzenry. Our participants chimed in that every student (and really, every person that uses the Web) should understand the level of impact they have on the digital landscape. Put another way, every action leaves a digital footprint, and the combination of these actions/profiles/projections creates an online profile that exists throughout a person’s life.

Many of these issues seem to be recurring themes, which leads me to believe that we need to start providing concrete examples of how teachers are using social media rather than having more abstract conversations of what it can do. Nothing wrong with conversation, but I think we’ve reached a point where social media is being used effectively by numerous professors across the country, and we’d like to know what they’re doing so others can learn.

With that in mind, Booz Allen’s Steve Radick shared this thoughtful comment:

I would add one more. “#4. Integrate social media into the curriculum.”

We shouldn’t only have “Social media 101” or “social media for the communications, biology, political science, etc. student.” In Media Law class, we should be learning about the latest precedents in social media and the law. In Ethics class, we should learn about public domain and Creative Commons and what’s legal to share and what’s ethical to share. The point shouldn’t be to teach the tools, but the concepts and principles behind the tools. To set social media apart is to minimize its impact.

It’s what we’re interested in: how is social media being used to teach academic disciplines, rather than teaching how social media “works.” Actually, we’re doing both, but important lessons in how to communicate come with application.

Next week, we’re taking off for Memorial Day. See you in two weeks!