In a previous post, I argued that as teachers we should be "on" social media; now, I'd like to suggest that we should be there with our learners, too, taking full advantage of the opportunities it provides…
First things first: for any teacher wanting to use social media with learners, privacy ought to be a big concern, and an excellent reason for picking the fabulous Edmodo as the social media platform to use for any class — and for not choosing Facebook for it.
Particularly with young learners, as well as considering any school or local education authority requirements, you want parental permission, preferably written, before you and your learners start posting anything online or using social media (or mobile phones) — and it's far more likely to be forthcoming if you provide information on exactly what you're going to be using it for and how you're going to ensure privacy (by using Edmodo; or with a private "authors/readers only" blog — for example with Blogger; or with a private G+ Community…).
With a group of adults, again do check school policy, and you want everyone to be willing to give social media a go, even if they're not currently big social media users. For that reason, Edmodo is again a good choice, because it doesn't involve anyone sharing their private life with others), though again a private G+ Community would also be a great choice — and do make it private when you set it up.
TIP Next after ensuring privacy would be ensuring your learners' willingness to be "on" social media with yourself and their classmates. There are still a surprising (?) number of people that don't want to be — and so I expressly avoid using the term "social media" when suggesting we create a space to use. Instead, I suggest we're going to use a "tool" or a "group" or a "Community". The term "social media" seems to set alarm bells ringing — and you want willingness to be there.
What is the point of being on social media?
Why, as a language teacher, would you want to be on social media with your learners? For three reasons:
- Because first of all it's social — and learning should be first and foremost a social experience (and not a technological one)
- Because, as a result, it generates good group dynamics, which washback into your face-to-face classroom — because your learners create and share and comment on things together, and therefore belong
- Because it creates further opportunities for interaction — outside the classroom — and for use of language, and therefore language learning, which is your primary reason for being in your classroom in the first place
If you teach a lot of different classes, you probably don't want to be "on" social media with all of them — you don't want to be managing half a dozen or more very active Edmodo groups for example.
But try it with one group or, better still, get one of your learners in one of your classes to set up the shared digital space you are going to be using, take charge of running it, and invite you to join…
If it takes off, it will change learning…