Mark Brumley: “Seven Social Media Lesson Ideas for the Classroom”

Designing an Effective Training Program July 23, 2013

Social media meets students on their own turf and provides an engaging avenue to learning. In this guest article, take a look at using social networks and microblogging. Let’s jump in and take a look at several lesson ideas.

1. Frontloading
Frontloading, also known as the reverse classroom, is when the bulk of your lessons are taught as homework through student interaction. When students arrive for class, they are ready to apply their knowledge.

Social media works perfectly for frontloading. With a classroom social network, you can add almost any type of media. For example, record your Spanish lesson, video a science experiment or even find a YouTube video that introduces a concept. Then, post is on your social network website. After viewing the content, students engage in an online discussion. When class starts the next day, your students are already familiar with the content and are ready to take it a step further.

2. Role playing
Role playing is an absolute blast when combined with social media. The concept is super simple yet generates powerful learning opportunities. Assign students to a role and they engage other students (who are also assigned roles) in character. Here are a few examples:

  • Characters in a novel
  • Historical figures and the people around them
  • Online debates
  • What if these people met? (i.e. Rachel Carson and an oil company CEO)

Try these ideas in your class. Your students will love it!

3. Fan pages
If you can use Facebook in your school, have your students create fan pages for just about any topic you can think of. For example, a math teacher can create a “Geometric Theorems” fan page. This is probably a stretch but you get the idea. Would students rather prove theorems on paper or by writing on a Facebook wall? 

Check out this sample fan page for Atticus Finch

The collaborative properties of a fan page are a huge factor. Students can work together and the results of their work can be shared with the entire class.

4. Microblogging
Microblogging is an excellent learning activity for students; however, your school may not allow Twitter. Or, if your students do not have school email accounts, it may be a challenge for students to create an actual Twitter ID. No worries! Alternatives exist that are just as good and work great for students.

Without a doubt the easiest microblogging site to use in the classroom is TodaysMeet. This site is completely free and requires no accounts at all. You create a microblogging environment called a room where your students interact. It’s so easy and students love it. The assignment at the end of this lesson will walk you through creating a TodaysMeet room.

5. Backchanneling
Backchanneling is when your students carry on a Twitter conversation, relevant to the lesson, while the lesson is occurring. Allowing students to tweet during your lessons can be a challenge but it is also an effective way to extend learning. Start by giving clear directions and goals you have for using microblogging during class. Explain how this is a way to write their thoughts while the lesson is in progress. Instead of just thinking, “I’m not sure if I agree with that,” you can tweet it. This can help steer the lesson for better understanding for all. 

6. Tweetups
A tweetup is when a group of Twitter users gather together and…tweet. It’s like getting together at a friend’s house but no one talks! In your classroom, you want all of your students to be involved in lively discussions. And, of course, you encourage actual, real-life dialogue between students. However, some students are quite reserved and nervous about speaking in front of their peers. While you continue to encourage these students to develop verbal expression, you can tap into their thoughts through a classroom tweetup. Many times, the quietest student in the room will share amazing insight. 

Here’s a quick lesson example. You assign reading for homework. When the students come to class, they go to your TodaysMeet page and digitally discuss the assignment in silence for ten minutes. You are involved in the tweetup as well, probing for understanding. When the time is up, follow up with a short, real-life discussion. The tweetup primes the pump and when the students can finally speak, the ideas flow.

7. Discussions in character
An effective way to use Twitter is to have students tweet in character. Let’s look at a specific example based upon Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Divide your class into groups of about five students each and have a Romeo and Juliet tweetup. Assign each group a unique hashtag (i.e. #chsenglit11 for CHS English Literature Period 1 Group 1). If you are using TodaysMeet, create a separate room for each group. Then assign each student a character from the play. Each group will be assigned the same set of characters. In our example, you will now have several groups with a Romeo, a Juliet, a Mercutio, etc. For the assignment, have the students tweet in character about important parts of the play or even tweet new scenes. A directive might be, “Tweet your characters thoughts immediately after Juliet’s wedding gets moved to the next morning (before she drinks the poison).” Make sure they tweet in the Shakespearean writing style! This assignment could be a one-time event or a continuous assignment throughout the entire unit of study.

Try out these ideas and discover how social media can positively impact teaching and learning.