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Want students to ‘like’ your lessons? Use social media

Digital tools aren’t just for fun, they can deepen learning too. An FE lecturer reveals why he'll be logging on in his lessons

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This is an edited version of an article in the 16 October edition of TES. To read the full article, subscribe to TES

Social media is a tool that our students will use with or without us. As educators, I believe we should ask them to help us learn so we can apply it together productively, collaboratively and in a professional, fun and creative way using a mode of communication many of them prefer. Every day I embed it in my lesson objectives and help my learners to build their reputation, skills, literacy and employability. Here’s how I put each platform to use:

Facebook

Facebook

On Facebook, you can create groups for students and also for the lecturer to share presentations, tips, reminders, videos, images and articles that consolidate and extend the learning beyond the lesson. Students can debate topics with one another while being peer-reviewed for good spelling and syntax by their fellow classmates. The option to message learners – and have them reach out to you if they are too shy to do so in person – can also be invaluable.

Another use for Facebook is to keep absent learners up to date on lessons by posting class-curated notes and pointers and, increasingly, streamed video (Periscope is useful for this) from the lecture. During project work, learners communicate in group chats under the gaze of their tutor and the local companies we have connected with via Facebook. Employees of these businesses often serve as mentors throughout the assignments and, increasingly, as sponsors for our courses.

Twitter

Twitter

A great starter activity is to peg a debate on the morning’s news to Twitter hashtags. By projecting the responses on to a screen using programmes such as TweetBeam or Twitterfall, I have the chance to capture evidence from a directed question about the lesson’s theme, encourage a verbal follow-up in class and get students to join a discussion that stretches beyond the four walls of the college to everyone online. Collaborating with other colleges on set hashtags has elevated the critical thinking of the contributions before we have even got to the lesson objectives.

We use industry experts and university students as “Twitter mentors” to guide learners through projects. This can involve setting personalised objectives, using set unit hashtags to post useful resources. Using Twitter to promote the student’s work is leading to recognition and opportunities for these learners. Follow my brilliant tutees @AmayaSky666 and @AlingMedia to see how they do it.

Snapchat

Snapchat

Snapchat’s My Story feature means that you can stitch together a series of annotated photos and videos to communicate subject terminology or key information in humorous ways. Students can also make guest appearances to show understanding of the objectives.

Instagram

Instagram

This offers a remarkably simple means of creating images and 15-second videos of your lectures, and is an economically efficient way of effectively targeting your demographic. Twitter’s Vine is similar, in that its six-second looping video clips can be used to succinctly summarise a point, reiterate deadlines and homework reminders or create cross-sections of a lecture that can be tweeted out to prospective students to show them what the lectures look like before they join.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn

This website is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their professionalism and showcase the academic, social and technical skills they develop on your course. You and the students can endorse and write short recommendations for one another after team projects, as a way to help each other become more employable in that area.

As educators, we have a choice: fixate on the dangers of social media, or help learners be conscious of the consequences of using sites badly and work with them to engage with social media productively. A pen can be used to write a mean note or to create an inspirational song, essay, poem or novel. Similarly, social media can be used negatively to denigrate others and damage self-esteem, or it can be used positively to learn, discover, open up real-world life opportunities and ignite the imaginations of the young minds we are privileged to work with. It is our responsibility to show our students how it can be used in the right way.

Scott Hayden is a lecturer and specialist practitioner of social media and ed tech at Basingstoke College of Technology

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