When I was in high school I signed up for an Advanced Placement Human Geography class; I had heard the class was easy and the teacher used Twitter all the time. Everyone who took his class was forced to create a Twitter account, if only for the sake of the class. At the start of everyday, he would create a hashtag, for example #APHG108, and would post a question on the blackboard such as ‘Name the three types of Muslim people?’. We would all respond using the hashtag; so in this example I would tweet “the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd people #APHG108”. My teacher, Mr. Mummert, would then use the hashtag to pull up our responses on the smartboard and then facilitate a discussion.
If you search ‘Twitter’ and ‘classroom’ in the same phrase, pages and pages of results come up for “How to better use Twitter in the classroom” or “The Benefits of using Twitter in the classroom”. The idea of integrating social media in our high schools is something that has become widely accepted, so the important issue is how to do it correctly and effectively. The complications that can arise can cause the negatives to outweigh the positives, so the important thing to do is analyze the issues that arise and be sure we are using this tool to its fullest.
The idea of using this teaching mechanism seems like it would be easy and effective because it uses Twitter, which is extremely popular in my generation. In practice, using this social media site took away from the actual question and made the focus on Twitter. In addition to distraction from the question, it could also lead students to zone out on their phones and miss the lesson completely.
I found this problem to be really crippling to the class. This was due to the fact that since we were using our phones for class, students became more and more comfortable scrolling through Twitter, then Instagram, and then they checked their Facebook and by the time they were tired of their phones the lesson was over. Personally, I am very easily distracted especially in the classroom and having not only access to my phone but permission to play on it took a big toll on my performance. Using Twitter in the classroom can distract students from the lesson making it harder for them to absorb the material.
This is the biggest complication that arises from using Twitter, or any other social media in the classroom, students can get distracted. I caught up with my old high school teacher and asked him about his personal experience using Twitter with his students. When he was asked ‘What kind of complication arose when he used Twitter in class?’ He replied “Not as many complications as many teachers think. There is always the possibility of distractions, but students tend to put their phones away when asked.” Although Mr. Mummert has experienced success, but the possibility of losing a student’s attention is one every teacher takes when allowing Twitter to be used.
In the PBS article “ Should teachers be using social media in the classroom?” one of the authors, Gail Leicht, makes an interesting point when she claims that social media should stay just that, social. She isn’t the only one who feels this way “Students want to use social media for socializing, not as an extended classroom” (Leicht & Goble) and she follows with more observations like “I am also being told by students that using social media in education is a ship that has sailed. Students have told me they’re already bored with teachers trying to create discussion forums.” (Leicht & Goble). If students are not even interested in the way their teacher is trying to utilize Twitter than there can be no hope for engage them. Kids spend hours a day scrolling through social media sites, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to use it for educational purposes.
All this time spent on social media could cause another complication in the classroom. Leicht discusses the idea that school should be a break from the borderline addiction this generation has to social media. Kids spend roughly six hours a day in front of screens (Prigg), school should be a time to refocus on face to face communication.
Author, Karen Lederer, researched the idea of using twitter and other social media in class and created an interesting pros and cons list. One of the things she fears is that “students are missing valuable lessons in real-life social skills” (Lederer) The social skills that are learned by class discussion and face to face communication could be hindered by introducing Twitter incorrectly to a class of young adults.
If there are so many things that can go wrong when a teacher wants to use tweets in class, then why do they even try it in the first place? This is because teachers have good intentions and most of them realize that if utilized and controlled, this can be a tool that not only connects with students but also gives live feed of current events, politics, and can even create a bridge to other cultures. Mr. Mummert says “It is pretty useful to use when asking students to share something with me and the class. It is also very useful for investigating current events and seeing different points of view.” He even suggests we check out the #CharlestonSyllabus to see examples of what a great tool it can be. These benefits can only be found if the teacher is using Twitter correctly. Distractions must be controlled and social media may be limited and facilitate face to face discussion.
This generation has integrated social media in every aspect of their lives and school is not excluded. The change to social media in the classroom is almost inevitable; complications and benefits that arise from educational social media must be considered when the teacher decides they want to connect to their students through the internet. Twitter isn’t going anywhere and if teachers want to integrate it into their lessons, they must consider and combat every complication that can arise.
- Goble, Don, and Gail Leicht. “Should Teachers Be Using Social Media in the Classroom?” PBS. PBS, 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 29 June 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/social-media-valuable-tool-teachers/>.
- Lederer, Karen. “Pros and Cons of Social Media in the Classroom — Campus Technology.” Pros and Cons of Social Media in the Classroom — Campus Technology. Campus Technology, 9 Jan. 2012. Web. 10 July 2015. <http://campustechnology.com/articles/2012/01/19/pros-and-cons-of-social-media-in-the-classroom.aspx>.
- Mummert, Jeffrey. “Twitter in Your Class.” E-mail interview. 14 July 2015.
- Prigg, Mark. “Children Spent over Six Hours a DAY in Front of Screens.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 27 Mar. 2015. Web. 19 July 2015. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3015293/Children-spent-six-hours-DAY-screens-likely-watch-shows-tablet-TV.html>.
- Twitter Classroom. Digital image. Flickr. N.p., 7 May 2010. Web. 20 July 2015. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/brunsell/4587431534/>.