Social media has somewhat become the fabric of our modern world. It is the media through which we learn breaking news, find updates on long distance friends, and even occasionally impulsively pour out our innermost thoughts, feelings, and political standpoints. The question on the minds of many middle school educators lately has been can we use social media with our students, and if so, how can we best use it to enhance our classrooms?
We all know that middle schoolers need to personally connect with what they are learning in order to find it relevant and meaningful, and what better way to do this than with social media? They are completely immersed in this digital world. They use it all the time (and I mean ALL the time). It makes sense for us to try our best to spark interest in what they're learning by sneaking it into their social world, which, as far as they are concerned, is the center of their universe.
Over the past few years, I've tried a couple of different approaches. I tried creating a team Facebook page and a teacher Facebook profile. This didn't really work. I didn't sign on it much, and frankly, there were way too many over shares from my current and past students. I didn't feel comfortable with using this type of social media to bridge the gap between my classroom and my students' social world. I tried creating a classroom Twitter account, but when I excitedly announced its creation to my students, they weren't thrilled. Only a handful of them had Twitter accounts, and they informed me that they didn't look at Twitter much. They told me I should try using Instagram instead. I did, and it's fantastic.
The great thing about Instagram is that my students can follow me, but can feel comfortable knowing I'm not following them back. They can check out what's happening in our classroom without feeling like their privacy is being violated.
Though I've just begun recruiting followers amongst my students, I've already used the account (@ELAinAction) in a few different ways.
1. I've tried to capture anything I find out in the world that is related to what I'm teaching, and post it to my Instagram. So far, I found a Shakespeare quote on a picture while shopping at HomeGoods. I also purchased a Snapple Apple, which (it must have been fate) contained 2 words that Shakespeare invented.
2. I've been posting score updates for my Montagues vs. Capulets competition (see last week's post for more on that!)
3. I posted my first Instagram challenge tonight. A brief article in the Huffington Post ranted about the most annoying language mistakes. I asked students to comment on the post by writing a sentence which correctly uses affect and effect.
4. I'm challenging my students to notice and capture connections they make between their own worlds, and what they are learning in my classroom.
Though this is just getting off the ground, it's great to know that as my students are spending hours scrolling through "selfies" posted by their "bffls," they are also taking a moment or two to connect with their learning.