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Social Media’s Role in the Virtual Classroom

Although social media are still in their infancy, they will continue to redefine how we communicate. The profound impacts of social media can be felt everywhere–from our small social circles to the world-at-large. This democratization of information has given everyone a voice (worthwhile or not) in shaping and contributing to culture. We no longer only consume culture, but we also participate in its activities and evolution. The whole process can sometimes lead to information overload.

The diversity of the ways in which people want to share, the moments that people want to communicate, and the tools that people need to stay connected are going to keep growing. – Mark Zuckerburg

Social media are integral to today’s high school students’ personal lives. Such activity is a real aspect of their daily activities. It’s quite rare to find a student not participating with 96% of students who have Internet access using some form of social media, the most popular social networking tools being Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The driving force behind social media use is simple: people need to feel connected. High school students, more than most people, will feel this strong drive to relate to others using their devices.

Educators have now begun to embrace and take advantage of social media in classrooms. While there are risks (cyberbullying, online privacy, etc.) the benefits far outweigh such concerns, especially in the virtual or blended environment where social media are much easier to integrate. Here are a few important benefits and implications.

Social media activate participation in students. With the increase in digital interactivity, everyone receives an amplified voice in the conversation. Students can interact and make real connections rather than being static consumers of information. This increase in participation is useful, not only for teachers, but also for students as they problem-solve together.

The students get more engaged because they feel it is connected to something real, that it’s not just learning for the sake of learning. It feels authentic to them. – Christine Greenhow

Social media promote and increase digital literacy. It’s becoming increasingly important for students to develop the 21st century skills needed if they are to be successful in their careers after school. Students need to understand the value of their digital reputations and how to protect their privacy both now and in the future.

Social media extend education beyond the classroom and into students’ personal lives. Today’s high school students are constantly engaged with the digital world. Most can’t leave the house without their smartphones. Social media allow instant communication and direct access to information. This engagement increases motivation and helps students learn better.

Do you think social media should have a place in the classroom? Let me know in the comments below.

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