How can we make better use of social media?

How can we make better use of social media? And, more importantly, how can we cascade that good practice down to learners to encourage the safe and responsible use of social media?

Image available on Pixabay, under a Creative Commons CC0 licence.

Knowing what’s ‘out there’ and how it’s being used is a critical step in not only understanding how we can make the most of social media for educational gain, but also for raising awareness of many of the associated e-safety issues.

So how can you go about sharing what you already know with learners, and more importantly, how do you find out about what you don’t know about?

Many reading this post will no doubt already discover much through their own personal learning networks – whether it’s a timely tweet shared by a contact, an informative blog post or a useful weblink found on one of the many social bookmarking sites out there. But is this how our learners are using social media?

The truth is we won’t know unless we ask them, so one approach is to tap into the experiences of your learners. In an earlier post I stressed that introducing a topic like e-safety is not about being a guru on all things tech and social media, it’s about sharing our experiences together and learning from each other.¬†Our learners¬†bring with them a variety of experiences that paint a much broader picture of social media use than any one teacher can alone – if we can surface those experiences in a session we will be all the more richer for it.

Of course, the teacher still has a crucial role in facilitating the activities and discussions around safe and responsible social media use and that’s where the following activity can help.

Here’s a step by step guide to how this activity might play out in a session:

  • Provide a brief overview of social media and explain that the session is designed to surface examples of how social media can be best used for educational gain and to highlight e-safety issues.
  • Load the image below (or use your own image – more on this later) on the whiteboard and ask learners to count how many social media logos they recognise.

  • To add a kinaesthetic aspect to the session, have them all stand up and then do a countdown in ascending order asking them to sit down (i.e. “Who recognises one or less? Sit down. Two or less? Sit down.” and so on). This is a really good way of identifying the heavy social media users in the group and the ones that are more likely to offer contributions to the discussions that follow.
  • When you have three or four learners left standing ask them to pick one example from the image (i.e. Twitter, Delicious, etc) and explain how they have either been using it for educational gain or to flag an e-safety issue. This part of the activity will largely depend on how much time you have available – for longer sessions use more examples from a wider range of learners.
  • Highlight some examples that have not already been discussed already from the image yourself using the Hotspots in the image. Note, the image I have used above is just an example, you may well find it more appropriate to use your own image and personalise it with Hotspots relevant to your needs (the image with Hotspots was created using the H5P site and there’s a tutorial on how to do it here – it’s really simple to do!).
  • Ask your learners what other social media sites they are using and how they are using them – this is a great way of finding out about new things you may not know about and the more you do this activity with learners the more your own knowledge of the subject will grow.
  • Optional – have the learners work in small groups to produce one idea of how social media could be used to support study and one key thing to avoid. Feedback to the rest of the class.
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