By Katie Benmar, Education Week, 4/21/15
The PowerPoint presentations most of my teachers have used are not interactive or engaging.
If teachers want to better understand how social media can affect a student’s desire to learn, they must first look inside the mind of a student….
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Kik, Vine, and Snapchat all rule the lives of most middle and high school students…. More than nine out of every 10 teenagers has a social-media account.
To comprehend why students spend so much time on social media, the compelling appeal of Facebook, Instagram, and the like has to be understood. With that understanding, teachers should consider the possibility of using social media to enhance learning. Unfortunately, this has been rare in my experience and that of my friends….
Social-media apps are a frequent topic of discussion for my friends and me, along with school. Both subjects are relevant in our everyday lives, although they rarely intertwine. After class, we usually discuss school and homework for a few minutes before the conversation quickly turns to social media. “Wow, I’m really going to have to study for that vocab quiz!” turns into “Did you see what Sophia posted yesterday?” Understanding how to harness the power that social media have over the lives of most students is an important first step in incorporating it into teaching….
For me, the main distraction is Instagram. I’m not alone in this, either—a study from last fall reveals that 76% of teenagers have an Instagram account, while only 45% of teens use Facebook. Instagram takes little effort to maintain and is quickly accessible through my smartphone or iPad….
Learning how to use social media and technology to engage students is potentially beneficial for our learning, and some teachers have taken the first step. At my former middle school, one math teacher has her own Instagram page where she posts homework assignments and things that she taught that day in class. This way, when kids are checking their feeds, homework assignments and reminders will inevitably show up on the screen. This is a good way to get students’ attention and remind them in a relatable way about upcoming tests or homework. Although this teacher is using social media and other technology in a smart way, she is a minority in a sea of teachers and educators that I have known.
The PowerPoint presentations that most of my teachers have used in the past to instruct students are not…interactive or engaging. No wonder students’ minds wander, and they resort to social media as a means of keeping themselves entertained.
In my current high school, Smart Boards have been put into almost every classroom. These boards have seemingly limitless and fascinating capabilities, and they aren’t cheap…. But here’s the thing: Out of my six classes, only one of them uses the board on a daily basis…. The teacher who took the time to figure out the board and use the technology to his advantage has made his class one of my favorites. Watching him use the board to write out the lesson plan and make certain points in class is engaging. Seeing his thinking unfold on the board in front of us holds our attention.
The best teachers I’ve ever had have used technology to enhance learning, including using Facebook pages for upcoming projects or planned online chats about books we read in class. These teachers were interesting to listen to, and the projects were fun and challenging. Online discussions using code names replaced book reports. And the thing is, participating in a discussion with other people didn’t require any less thought about the book than writing a book report would have. It actually made me think about it and understand it better, because I was listening and responding to other people’s opinions that were backed up with evidence, instead of following the same strict book-report format that I had been required to do for years.
I hope that educators will consider experimenting more with technology and social media in their classrooms in a way that will be intellectually challenging to students….
Katie Benmar is a freshman at Roosevelt HS, Seattle WA.
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