How to Ignite Your Communication with Students via Social Media
The biggest phenomenon about social media is that it is simultaneously underrated and overrated. While you can ignite your communication with students using social media platforms, the true question is, should you?
There are four reasons why a teacher would want to use social media with their students:
- For sharing lectures, materials, and written assignments
- To publish notices and discuss the curriculum
- To allow students to post presentations
- If you want to destroy your teaching carrier
The last one might sound like a joke, but it should be mentioned as a warning. Some things shouldn’t be used for professional means because of the toxicity that comes with it.
Each communication or social media platform is specific in its own way. If used correctly, they can all be beneficial. But when it comes to teaching and connecting with students, some should be avoided.
Others are good and can be useful if you want to help your students improve their academic achievement. Also, they can be a good way to monitor what is happening in the classroom when you are not around and how are children behaving when they are relaxed.
Is there a Point?
Using social media can be useful. Offering something relevant and entertaining is a good way to gain a connection with your students. It can also be a good way to accept ideas on the curriculum without needing to interview each student individually.
But you need to know exactly why you are doing something. Opening a page aimlessly can (and will) turn into a debacle fairly quickly.
You must have important materials made in advance and checked before you post them. This applies to memes and funny pictures as well, because they need to stay relevant to the class.
The goal of the communication
Because you are the teacher, you will always be viewed as the moderator of the page, even if you don't plan on censoring anything. As such, you need to place not only strict limits on what people can do on the page but to moderate the tone as well.
Your every post needs to go towards that goal. Sometimes you would use text and others you can use memes, but have the reason in mind all the time.
Keep it Professional
Professional and strict are not necessarily the same thing. Still, you must never, under any circumstances, treat your students as if they are your friends.
This is true even for higher education where the difference in age might not be that significant. And if your students are younger and underage you should take extra measures not to fraternize too much.
The best example of such a rule is the themes. While high schoolers and university students are already familiar with a range of themes, it is not your place to discuss these things with them.
Basically, if it is any topic that is commonly avoided at the average Thanksgiving dinner, just avoid it.
If your students try to start such a subject, ask them to write an assignment about why that is important for the curriculum. That will stop any future attempts fairly quickly.
Which Platforms to Choose From?
Depending on what you want to do, you can choose different platforms. Each can be a good tool for communication and expression, but they also differ in some key aspects.
Primarily, if there isn’t an easy way to see what has been posted and sent before you can’t use them for lectures. This includes things like YouTube where you can make playlists but it isn’t easy to search a specific video without a link.
Ideally, you can use YouTube as a hosting site and something else to bind the class together.
And finally, some social media platforms are useless for this. Either due to cybersecurity issues, or simply because the youth of today doesn't like them, you should avoid making a web presence on these platforms.
For Lectures and Materials
- Google Docs / Google Classroom
While Google Classroom has some additional features that would be beneficial, it can't be enabled without the explicit request from the School District to Alphabet Inc. Thus, unless you are in the very few districts where the administration is agile, you will need to wait quite a bit.
But using Google Docs and Hangouts is just as good. Also, your students won’t have an issue using it strictly for school and knowing how to behave when online.
Telegram is also a great thing because it is both safe and easily accessible on mobile. Because it is a combination of Twitter, Facebook, and Google Docs, you can be very versatile in how you will use it.
For Communication and Notices
In some cases, you only want social media to start a discussion. This means that no old info needs to be accessed and messages are sent fairly quickly.
Discord is, by far, the best platform for such a task. With up to 50 free members you can even include some of the staff or other teachers in your discord to share and bring in all of the students.
Twitter is also a good option, but you might want to use special school accounts. The overall toxicity of Twitter is an issue and you don’t want that seeping into your classroom.
Instagram and YouTube are very familiar to modern youngsters. But they are not ideal for communication. Still, they can be a good place for promotion as well as a tool to increase transparency.
You can ask your students to submit videos or images for a joint account for the class or to tag the class account through their personal accounts.
But be careful because such a visual medium can induce anxiety in students who are predominantly introverted and might cause some cyberbullying if you are not careful.
The Hard NO!
Finally, these three should be avoided for completely different reasons.
Facebook is, by popular "Zoomer" opinion, and old people platform. Millennials would generally agree. Also, the security on the site and the possibility of people meddling is so large that nobody wants to engage too much.
TikTok is awful as there is a huge range of reasons why you, as someone whose frontal cortex is developed, shouldn't use it for any reason. From the predatory practices of the company to the perceivable exploitation of children for different gains, you want to avoid it.
Finally, there is Snapchat, which you will want to avoid at all costs. There are no objective benefits for communication with students here, and there can be mishaps. Being in prison is reportedly not a nice experience. You don’t want, under any circumstances, private pictures of your students anywhere near your device.
Make it Fun
There are just a couple of tricks on how to increase engagement and ignite communication with students over social media. All of them are intending to make the experience more fun and exciting.
If you can’t make communication over social media fun, there will be no reason for students to participate and share something on their own accord.
Because of this, you will need to relax the standards of behavior just a bit, as nobody is distracting the classroom. While you should still forbid profanities and attacks, you shouldn’t request professionalism.
Bring in the Memes
The biggest problem with people not in the meme culture is that they use dead memes, which is an internet faux pas. But it is very easy to prevent that from happening to you.
Simply go on r/memes and sort by 'hot'. Scroll down until you find something applicable to your case. You can use MS paint to change any text and to adapt it for yourself, but it is better to use it as is.
In time, you will become familiar with the culture and have an easier time understanding what your students and their generation like and what they dislike.
Note: if there are things that you dislike, make sure to stand your ground in your dislike. It is a pro move not to like something but to accept that someone else likes it.
Chats, streams, and pages should be active daily. But there should be a maximum of three posts from you as the teacher. Flooding the stream, and the notifications from it, will make turn everyone off to your communication.
A single post right after school and one later in the evening is the best strategy if you want to have maximum engagement.
America may be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but your classroom isn’t. You are not a democracy, but maybe closer to an enlightened tyranny ruled by you as the teacher.
Still, you want to allow freedom and not be heavy-handed. The list of possible transgressions should be very short and very understandable. But when they are broken, justice should be swift and merciless.
Some people might feel more at ease to participate at home. If this might go into their grade they will want to do it that way. Communication with students should be for their benefit.
Posting presentations, or discussing something that they have read or seen should be awarded in a certain way. Tools like behavioral charts may be of assistance here. Or you can lean on having it count towards their grade.
Communication with students using social media can be very beneficial, especially if you can spark a larger discussion and only supervise on the side.
But it can also have some drawbacks. If you are using the wrong platform for what you want to achieve you will have a bad time. In the end, it will all be a balancing act between making everything fun, and pulling out at least a bit of productivity from the process.