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Social media will increasingly pervade the digital classrooms of today and likely those of tomorrow. Because of this, savvy teachers are pondering its implications and, most of all, its lasting effects on learning.
They are also striving to find the most constructive social media classroom uses possible to have in their practices. Any tool that connects to what is relevant to learners can garner a place in our learning environments, provided it's approached properly.
One trick with finding the right social media classroom uses could be looking for ways of making it more than just an escape, or a simple platform for sharing snippets of our lives. That's exactly what you'll find in the TeachThought article 10 Strategies To Help Students Use Social Media For Critical Thinking by Terry Heick. If you believe social media is a classroom time-waster, these ideas that move it into critical thinking territory will probably change your mind.
First of all, let's discuss why social media is even necessary in the first place. In his article, Terry talks about our human need to share thoughts and opinions through the tools of communication we've developed over time. This only cements the inevitability of social media's presence in classrooms and in other areas of our lives from now on:
"No matter how much we lament a loss of privacy, too much screen time, superficial identity, or countless other worries, media has been around since language was invented, and we have always sought to make that media as social as locally available technology would allow ... as long as we continue to have thoughts and ideas, we will continue to seek to publish and socialize them with others."
Social media is here to stay and it will only evolve as our social needs and abilities with technology evolve. In the end, social media isn't a problem in classrooms if it's used in a way that enhances learning rather than obstructs it. As the world of education transforms, it's up to those of us working in it to innovate in any way we can. We do this for the sake of powerful learning, and for the sake of the future.
The social media classroom uses that follow from Terry's article advocate more than simple acceptance of the tools themselves. They inspire ways to develop deep critical thinking skills that reveal how learners relate to others and the world around them. In doing so, they foster a deeper understanding of themselves.
10 Ways to Think Critically Using Social Media
- Think purpose, not platform
- Use social media to establish context
- Model intellectual tolerance
- Illuminate interdependence
- Extend conceptual comfort zones
- Clarify categories of knowledge
- Analyze and compare citizenship and digital citizenship
- Amplify cognition
- Analyze how the form affects the message
- Seek authenticity
Below are summaries of the 10 social media uses Terry offers up. We suggest you read his full article on TeachThought for more information and insights into this important topic.
1. Think purpose, not platform. Connect students through function and purpose, not technology and gadgets
2. Use social media to establish context. Use social media to help students establish a context for themselves.
3. Model intellectual tolerance. Model for students how to relate to others who are different—who think, look, and act differently than what they’re accustomed to.
4. Illuminate interdependence. Help students clarify for themselves who and what they’re connected to–the obvious and less obvious.
5. Extend conceptual comfort zones. Use place-based education and project-based learning to help students make new connections to people, places, and ideas outside of the curriculum map
6. Clarify categories of knowledge. Help students see knowledge in categories—academic vs recreational; creative vs industrial, fluid vs fixed, etc.
7. Analyze and compare citizenship and digital citizenship. Help students see the effects of their on others, and of others’ behaviour on them.
8. Amplify cognition. Have a new idea? Share it with others who are interested in those kinds of ideas.
9. Analyze how the form affects the message. If students can see how the form of the message affects the message itself, they can think ‘around’ and through the platform and see ideas and their roots themselves.
10. Seek authenticity. Assist students in identifying authentic roles in a community they care about.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Dec 21, 2018, updated September 19, 2021