3 reasons why you want to use social media with your learners

Social media

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:

  1. Because first of all it's social — and learning should be first and foremost a social experience (and not a technological one)
  2. 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
  3. 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…

Possible alternatives to Blogger, Edmodo and G+ Communities: a WhatsApp group or Twitter, which you can also use privately.

If it takes off, it will change learning

See also
Why teachers need to be on social media
Top 10 tips for starting with Edmodo

You want comments, not likes

750 shares but only 2 comments

Nearly 750 "shares" and "likes", but only 2 comments…

Here's one that comes from a great blog I follow, Creative Bloq. It's not related to ELT, but the problem you can see them having above is one the vast majority of blogs have nowadays (including this one!): they're getting very few comments.

In language teaching, if you're using a class blog, or something else (an Edmodo group, or Facebook, or whatever), you want lots of comments, as well as the posts. Both should be produced by the learners as often as by the teacher and  you want the comments particularly (a) because it suggests the learners are finding the content interesting and (b) because comments provide meaningful opportunities for more interaction and use of the language.

To get such comments, you really have to add a "comments" stage to your task design, and require it of your learners. It's not enough just to "like"!

Apart from what you're doing with your classes, if you're reading blogs (etc.) for the purposes of professional development, you want to write comments. You want to do so because "liking" and then immediately forgetting and moving on to the next thing to "like" really isn't engaging the brain in any meaningful way whatsoever. Actually having to write some sort of response does, as does entering into dialogue. To develop as a teacher — or as anything else — you need to brain to be engaged. "Liking" isn't enough!

If you think you just don't have time to "comment", my advice would be to stop "following" so many people or use something organised like The Old Reader to follow blogs via RSS, rather than wasting your time "liking" stuff on Facebook (etc).

Rant over. Am I starting to sound like a grumpy old man…?

Halloween photos on mobile phones

Image: Barcelona tobacconist's window, taken to show students as an example

Here's a project that seems to be going down well: having teens compete to see who can take the best Halloween themed pictures on their mobile phones.

They're sharing them in lots of places (Facebook, Twitter, via WhatsApp…) though where they're supposed to be 😉 sharing and commenting on them is on the Edmodo group set up for the class. 25 people have so far posted 47, which is great, though the amount of commenting has been a bit disappointing so far (perhaps we needed to insist on it more?).

After next weekend (when lots are going to Halloween parties where they're supposed to take more photos), the idea is for the learners to discuss and award prizes for the funniest, scariest, cutest… etc,

Thanks to Kate for trying the idea out!

See also
More Halloween ideas

Things you can do with Edmodo

This, from the excellent Edmodo Blog, shows teachers and students at Meadowbrook High School in Richmond, Virginia, making use of Edmodo in a number of interesting ways. Using Edmodo as a book discussion group is an idea I've found to work particularly well.

From the same source, how Edmodo teachers can save 160 million sheets of paper a week (!!!).

On TechLearning.com, Lisa Nielsen compares Edmodo to Facebook and makes the point that "Facebook is the platform where our students and parents are already communicating".

My experience of using Edmodo is that there certainly always seems to be a learner who eventually puts their hand up and says "Couldn't we do this on Facebook instead?" but, more than anything else, it's Edmodo's greater (ie. total!) privacy that makes it my preferred social learning platform.

Things I take to class #6: 6 secret letters

From my session at the APABAL Convention in Palma, September 10th…

Shoes. Discuss… A great activity for Edmodo.

The 6 secret letters I take to class are the access code to the very best of the "Web 2.0 tools" that I've tried with learners: Edmodo.

Edmodo allows you to set up groups [see Edmodo Help section] which then give you a private walled garden, a digital space in which your learners can do and share things. It's very easy to use, very like Facebook, and thus immediately familiar to anyone who might already be a Facebook user, with one big difference: greater privacy.

In my APABAL session I demonstrated the following activity, which has proved very successful with both teens and adults, the idea for which came from an article on Yahoo News about how much can you tell about someone's personality from his/her shoes.


  • The article is read and discussed first, either in class or from home, using Edmodo for the discussion
  • Learners take photos of each others' shoes; if this is done outside class time, photos can also be of shoes of parents, siblings, friends etc.
  • (Optionally) If the photos are taken outside class, the learners edit them with the excellent Pixlr Express
  • Photos are pooled and then distributed at random (assigning a kid or kids to deal with this saves the teacher a lot of work); optionally, the teacher can add a few photos of his/her own (self? friends? willing colleagues…); no one should get their own shoes, though it doesn't matter if they do
  • In class, assuming access to computers is available, in pairs, learners post one or more pictures to the Edmodo group, describing them and commenting on whether or not they are fashionable; who would wear them; and what the shoes say about the wearer's personality
  • Learners comment on what other people have posted (and, with any Edmodo activity, we want our learners to write lots of comments!)
  • Language feedback

Note that, particularly with young learners, you might want to warn them in advance not to say anything unkind or hurtful; and that no one should be identified at any stage as the wearer or owner of the shoes.

Instead of using Edmodo, the same activity could also be done on a class blog.

See also

10 things I take to class
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