Way back in the month of March, we hosted a Storytelling through Social Media master class with Mark W. Guay and Jessica Wilt. This class took a hard look at the in’s and out’s of using social media responsibly in schools to communicate the school’s main messages with the community.
While this is certainly a critical component to social media in schools, I think another aspect of social media is rising: how to use it for instructional purposes. Using social media throughout instruction not only harnesses technology to help our students communicate on different platforms, it also engages them in creative thought, design and processes. It’s truly a STEAM education opportunity that integrates the arts and technology in new and exciting ways.
Why not create a composer or artist Facebook profile? This could be for a current composer or artist (including the students as artists themselves) or for a historically-significant artist or composer. Students can select a profile image, the background header, key facts, friends lists, and postings of the progress of compositions or those already completed. They could go even further and design an events page for an upcoming show of the artist/composer.
What’s critical here is both in the content selected, which required looking through various sources and selecting only key pieces, but also the portrayal of the artist or composer (is VanGogh portrayed as a misunderstood, self-sacrificing genius or a mentally-ill and self-effacing struggling artist?) and how the design of the profile complements this point of view. One interesting exercise is to give everyone the same artist or composer and see how many different ways that artist is portrayed in each profile. Students can study effective Facebook marketing techniques, the sizes for best photo cropping, and even the apps that are available for Facebook profile pages to use to encourage visitors to shop in their online stores or to sign up for their newsletters.
The great thing about Twitter is that it necessitates synthesis and succinctness. The tough thing about Twitter is that you are limited to 140 characters (and often times 120 characters if you want others to Re-Tweet and share your message). Have students work on a large-scale project and document their progress through Twitter to see if they can get others excited about the work as well. Or, take a virtual or real field trip and ask students to craft responses to what they are seeing using a very specific hashtag, like #MsRileysClassFT2016. This way, students and parents who cannot attend physically can still keep up with what’s happening. And, since you can attach images to Twitter, students can even take snapshots to go along with their commentary. Another way to use the group chat feature with the hashtag is to create a news story based upon a piece of artwork, composition, dance or other event you have selected.
Students can report what is happening in real time and document their own responses and reflections about what they are viewing. Using a selected hashtag allows everyone to take part and respond to each other. Finally, try using Twitter as a synthesis tool. This is a hard skill for many students to master, but Twitter makes it fun. They need to think about a big topic such as “Define Creativity” or “What were the causes of the Civil War?” and synthesize it into a 120-140 character tweet. String them together to create a set of class “tweetables” for conversation starters and artistic prompts.
Similar to Twitter, Vine forces you to be succinct and craft a powerful message in the process. Unlike Twitter, Vine uses video – not text – to accomplish this goal. Currently, you are only allowed to create videos that are 6 seconds in length to post to your Vine account. There’s a few ways to use this as a tool for instruction. First, you could have students create their own 6-second question and answer segments. They can create a 6-second video that asks a question, but for any question video they create, they must answer one other question video. So, if I asked a question about quadratic equations, I would then need to find a question video from my peers that I could answer and create a 6-second answer in response video.
Another way to use Vine is to document the stages of a project in 6-second increments and then post them sequentially. Or, students can capture each stage of the process and then edit their videos to be a little lesson than 1 second in length a piece, which can then be stitched together into a single 6-second clip. Finally, use Vine for the synthesis tool it truly is meant to be. Ask students an essential question about a topic and have them act out, dance, sing or visually represent their own understanding through video. Post it with a group hashtag and then ask students to respond to each others’ videos.
How do you use social media with your students as an instructional tool? What excites you about this and what challenges do you have?
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.