Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why more schools should integrate social media into their curriculum

Image Credit: Concordia University
It’s no surprise that social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook play a large role in the lives of the younger crowd, especially those under 18. These sites have touched every aspect of our culture and are drastically changing world by the way we communicate and interact with each other.

Although most K-12 schools ban cell phones, a 2013 survey found that parents are buying cell phones for their children at a younger age. On average, kids get their first phone at 11, however, the study also found that one in 10 kids has a cell phone by the time they are five years old.

This technological impact also means that kids are also joining social media sites at younger ages. According to a 2012 Consumer Reports survey, 7.5 million children under the age of 13 were using Facebook, including more than five million under the age of 10. According to Social Media Today, three out of four students in the 7th – 12th grade have at least one social media profile.

Since 96% of students who go online use social media, K-12 schools can’t afford to sit back and ignore the prevalence of social media in the lives of their students. However, the question is how schools can incorporate social media lessons into their curriculums without compromising their safety or causing distractions. Schools are in a unique position to capitalize on how to teach students to navigate social media sites at a young age.

Social media creates a skill set that is needed in the 21st century, as the development of social media sites has allowed access to information that we’ve never had before, making us more globally connected. According to Best Masters in Education, 46% of schools have students participate in online pen pal or other international programs. The fact that social media is hands-on provides opportunity for real-life learning, provides students greater access to research tools, strengthens communication and collaboration skills, and increases their confidence.

Students can gain information, insights, and skills needed for their future careers by interacting with people such as industry professionals, politicians, and other notable people on social media, whom they otherwise would not be able to interact with before.

But that’s not all; social media sites can help connect students with college recruiters, opening the door to more educational opportunities. A 2012 Kaplan survey found that 87% of colleges use Facebook for recruiting potential college students, 76% use Twitter, and 73% use YouTube.

Social media creates engagement and interactivity in the classroom, especially during lessons that might be lacking in particularly exciting material. The use of a class hash tag, allows interactions, free discussion of issues, and feedback. This creates a sense of community and fellowship among the students.

For students who are shy, social media allows them to collect their thoughts and say what they mean to say. More than one in four teens say that using their social networking site makes them feel less shy (29%) and more outgoing (28%), according to a 2012 study by Common Sense Media. This improves written communication skills in individuals, among students and their teachers.

Social media doesn’t even have to be used solely by students. Teachers can benefit from social media by the ability to post assignments online, send reminders, share learning material, answer questions about homework, and have the ability to connect with and inform parents in a more convenient way. School administrators can more easily announce important events and information, such as school closures.

Teachers and parents also have greater opportunities to address online issues at even younger ages, such as how to be safe online and give advice for students on what to do if they are involved in cyber bullying.

The importance of social media instruction in schools is even catching on with lawmakers. Earlier this month, the state of New Jersey passed a bill that would require school districts to teach middle school students about responsible use of social media. The bill is designed to teach middle schoolers about “cyber safety, cyber security, and cyber ethics” on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Students will also be taught about cyber bullying and other negative online behaviors.

Social media instruction in K-12 schools provide benefits to not only the student, but to parents, teachers, and the entire school system by allowing students to have a more up-to-date view on our world while learning important life skills and how to use social media safely and properly online. Social media isn’t going away; students are already heavily using social media sites, now it’s just up to the schools to embrace it. Only time will tell if more schools adopt the use of social media in daily curriculum, but it’s clear that there’s a slow revolution already happening in schools: a social media revolution.

For more information about the impact of social media in schools, here is an informative infographic.

This was originally posted on the Eagle Strategies blog.

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