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

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  1. And you forgot to mention closed Facebook groups, the advantage being that I'm sure there are a lot more people on Facebook already than anywhere else. And if your only reason for not using Facebook is privacy, the same principles apply to G+ groups.

    Another option would be greating a closed LinkedIn group. And I'm sure there are tons of other alternatives too.

  2. Yes, you're right, Marco — a Facebook group would be another possibility (and there are certainly others).

    My problem with Facebook (of which I really can't say I've every been much of a user) is that a proportion of adults (say, around 10% of the learners I've had in class) really, really don't want to be on it and so it's a question of perceived privacy rather than actual privacy. And if they're parents, some of them DON'T want their kids to be "friends" with their teachers — which, as a parent, I can understand.

    Edmodo, in that sense, is way better.

    My experience with G+ has been (a) that very few of the learners I've come across use it; (b) that you can have a totally private G+ Community; (c) that you can be "on" G+ ONLY for that — and share nothing else there; and that, as a result, (d) adult learners seem to be happier to be there than on Facebook, no matter how private the latter could be made to be. I guess it's a question of them taking my word for G+ privacy when they won't take my word that FB can be private too 😉 !

    I guess also the fact that they've shared nothing so far on G+, whereas they know they have shared a lot on FB, which they don't want to share, and don't believe won't be sharing.

    Great topic for a class discussion, on occasions 😉 !

    I've considered a LinkedIn Group, but rejected the idea several times, with different groups, when I discovered that not many were users.

  3. Yes the fact that they're already there is a huge plus for FB. I think ID use that but they won't let us at my school, if I had kids myself I'd agree, I think

  4. Thanks for commenting, Kim.

    The business of school and parental permission is definitely a huge issue with young learners, as is willingness to be there with adults.

    Definitely also worth considering before you pick your platform who is already using what – with Facebook the likely winner there, as Marco says.

  5. BTW, are you still running that crazy group on Yahoo???

  6. You're also forgetting about if the teacher is confortable being on Facebook. Me, no!

  7. @Esther: Yes, I totally agree! If you really don't want to share stuff on FB, don't be there with learners — though Marco is right, you could restrict that.

    Another alternative is to create a totally separate "professional" profile.

    @Kim: you must mean the Lord of the Rings Warhammer Elf painting group 😉 ????

    I guess not, huh? If you mean our post-CELTA course support group, yes, we are still using a Yahoo group (1500+ members) but have migrated part of it to Google+ Communities.

    We've been on Yahoo since 2004 and will most likely move completely over to G+ by the end of this year, and I've not created any new Yahoo Groups for years.

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