you hear the phrase, "social media," what images come to mind? Teens
posting a Facebook status about their latest break-up? Celebrities
tweeting about their every move? Blogs containing everything from stupid
pet photos to video game cheats to yet another person's round-the-world
Many people see social media as a harbinger for the end of
critical thinking. Schools are banning teachers and students from using
it, as evidenced by the recent Missouri law.
Yet a few
innovative teachers have actually found ways to turn this technological
enemy into an educational tool to promote critical thinking. Here are
just a few examples:
at Sam Houston State University gives students in her Public Relations
course assignments on YouTube. Students watch news stories on YouTube
with a list of questions to help them analyze the content, then
participate in a group discussion the following class period. Over the
course of the semester, students learn to think critically about the
content they view online and even introduce content they find
independently into class discussions.
at the University of Texas at Dallas used Twitter for her U.S. History
class, which took place in a large, auditorium-style classroom with 90
students. Students would have mini group-discussions on a certain topic
and then tweet their most important points with established hash tags
for the class. The tweets were projected on a screen and would formulate
a class discussion, Twitter-style, for the whole class to see. Rankin
notes that the process encouraged students to engage who would not have
done otherwise. It also fostered a type of collaborative learning where
students could share insights that benefitted the whole class.
Mr. Featherstone of Ontario, Canada, created a blog
for his high school which included instructions for a Facebook
Character project. Students had to create a Facebook page for a
fictional character from a novel they were studying. They would
essentially role-play the character through social media by posting
pictures, status updates, and wall posts as that character. A project
like this gets students to think much deeper about a character's place
in a fictional story and analyze how their classmates may interpret the
same character in different ways.
While obvious limitations exist
for the use of social media in the classroom, such as the risk of
students posting inappropriate content, a lack of technological
resources at the school, or even something as simple as the
140-character limit on Twitter, social media has the potential to
benefit the way students learn. With over 500 million Facebook users
alone, social media is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Although
some schools seem to think the answer is to ban it altogether, examples
such as the ones above seem to suggest that embracing social media can
lead to methods of teaching critical thinking to students.
opinions continue to differ, it remains to be seen what the educational
system as a whole will decide what to do about social media.
Pierce is a 4th grade teacher who has over 20 years of experience in the
classroom. Her interests include educational technology and online
learning. She also owns the site Elementary Education Degree for students interested in earning a degree in elementary education.