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Social media is having a tremendous impact on every aspect of society, including our modern education system. Remember when the only time parents met with teachers was on a PTA night? Or when students carried around heavy backpacks filled with written assignments on (gasp!) paper? Those days are now over, thanks to the many ways that social media is helping to re-shape the education system.
Students are using social media to meet, organize and collaborate
Perhaps most obviously, students are using social media as a way to connect with other students in their classes – as well as leaders in the local community. They are using social media platforms such as Facebook to raise awareness about upcoming events, to land new internship opportunities and to organize huge student events. Yes, many students still use social media platforms such as Facebook primarily for entertainment purposes, or to catch up with friends, but they are also recognizing the power of social networks to improve the overall educational experience.
Teachers are using social media to re-think the teaching process
The days of boring lectures, rote memorization and uninspiring homework assignments are also coming to an end, thanks to the various ways that social media is changing the education system. For example, the fact that Facebook is an extraordinarily powerful video platform means that lectures, seminars and workshops can be streamed over the Internet. And, better yet, you don’t even have to rely on teachers who reside in your immediate geographic area for this content. Thanks to the popularity of massively open online courses (MOOCs), a student in Paris, Texas can listen to a lecture from a world-famous professor in Paris, France.
And, in terms of homework assignments, teachers are waking up to the power of social media to engage students. For example, in one case study used by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC) to illustrate the changing dimensions of the educational experience, one example highlighted was a biology teacher who encouraged students to talk about certain topics only via hashtags. Other professors are encouraging students to interact on group projects using social media apps on their smartphones.
Parents are using social media to boost their overall engagement
Finally, it can’t be overstated just how important social media has been in boosting the ability of parents – many of them working multiple jobs, commuting long distances, or working insane hours – to keep up with their children’s progress via social media. Some teachers are creating private (or, at least, password-protected) social media groups where parents can interact directly with them throughout the school year, rather than waiting for the 1-2 nights per year (i.e. PTA Night) when formal face-to-face meetings are possible.
Overall, social media is having a tremendous impact on how students learn, and how teachers engage students both inside and outside of the classroom. Today’s mainstream media is filled with negative stories about social media in the classroom, but not enough stories of how social media is opening up the educational experience for many students in disadvantaged, under-funded or ignored communities. That is the real power of social media.