6 Ways Educators Can Use Social Media to Keep Students Engaged

Here are a few social media tools that educators can use to teach and encourage their students, and to promote interaction.
1. Facebook Groups
Kids and teens – well, pretty much most people who breathe – love hanging out on Facebook.  For team projects, have a student create a Facebook group where people can discuss the project easily with everyone else simultaneously. The group creator can add other students – they don’t need to add themselves. The easier the opt-in, the more the messages will be delivered.
2. Facebook Questions
Engaging students while they’re on summer vacation or over the weekend can be critical to keeping them involved and maintaining knowledge.  You don’t need to know html and CSS to develop a fun game online.  A school with a Facebook page can poll its likers using Questions, and people get to see who voted for what, or how other people answered.  Before a test, teachers can ask key questions using this tool to get students prepared, and to get an idea of how well the students know the material.
3. Foursquare
Foursquare is a great tool for getting people to show up, and for making school cool.  At schools with truancy problems, rewards can be given to the mayor of the school or a club (as long as there’s no more than one check-in per day per student!).  You can up the ante by offering different badges, like the Swarm badge, for groups of 50+ people to unlock.  Or borrow a kayak from a local outdoor sports store and have students sit in it while checking in to Foursquare at school and getting the “On a Boat” badge.  While you’re at it, invite the local news station to cover the event, and show the community that you’re making school cool again.
4.  Twitter Hashtags
Start conversations with hashtags on Twitter about upcoming social or sports events, even for science fairs.  Hashtags like #mysciencefairproject can elicit some humorous responses, but the main goal here is to promote awareness of the event so that students who might not otherwise be involved at least can’t say they didn’t hear about something.
5. Facebook Ads
For private schools, Facebook ads with a video about that school can be targeted to reach students at lower schools from whence incoming students usually come.  Or they can be targeted to reach the parents of younger students.
6. Rewards
Of course incentives are worth experimenting with, where there’s room in the budget.  $5 Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts cards for answering a Facebook question or poll correctly can go a long way toward getting students to pay attention.
UPDATE, 12/17/2011
Thanks to David Littauer for sending me this video: Youtube’s new initiative for educators called Youtube for Schools:
These were just off the top of my head.  Anything else?  You’re a creative bunch. Write your ideas in the comments below…

If you work at a school and have questions about how to implement these ideas, please email me at margelit.hoffman@gmail.com. My email is margelit.hoffman@gmail.com for questions and pricing.

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6 Responses to "6 Ways Educators Can Use Social Media to Keep Students Engaged"

  1. Martin says:

    Hi Margelit, two short comments from a German viewpoint: 1) At least over here, not every student has got a smartphone. Not even a mobile phone. So things like foursquare are immediately ruled out, because some people would feel locked out 2) Job-related use of Facebook is streng verboten for public services, and also educators, for privacy reasons. So my university tells me: http://bit.ly/vL87oU

    • Thanks for reading Martin! Indeed, Facebook can be tricky, especially since students and teachers, as a general rule, should not be connected on Facebook. I know teachers who go by aliases on Facebook so as not to be found by their students.
      BUT the students themselves are connected on Facebook, so getting them to create a group around a topic or project shouldn’t be out of the question.
      A Facebook page should be generated and controlled by administration, in most cases.

      Many organizations have rules and policies about the use of sites like Facebook. My forecast is that in the coming years the benefits will be seen as overriding any privacy issues, and social sites will be more commonly used in these ways.

      What confounds me about some people’s viewpoints on privacy issues is that people seem to still think that publishing something online is a private affair. That just isn’t so anymore. Saying something on Facebook is the same as saying it loudly in a crowded room filled with friends and strangers alike. Don’t put it on there if you don’t want it to be found. You simply cannot control who finds your stuff.

      Once when we lived in Jerusalem, Shmuel was referred to for a filming job at the UN by someone living in Ramallah. We know no one in Ramallah. It was a wake-up call. If you’re online, people know you exist.

  2. Caleb says:

    Awesome post! As the Social Media coordinator for JKCP.com we deal with tons of teens in the world of academics and I was pleased to see I’m doing every single thing listed here.

    Love the mention of FB-Questions. It is a very effective tool. I’m also intrigued by the success rate of FB Ads. We use them differently since we are not a school, but the concept is brilliant.

    Well done. @Caleb_Mezzy for @JKCP. Thanks for this!

  3. Indeed – thank you – are there any you’ve used besides those I mention? Any creative ideas are welcome! You can also create your own badges…

  4. […] Facebook loves to change things up – it keeps us on our toes.  This post has been updated on January 11, 2012.  We’ll see when Facebook changes things again and I’ll need to update this post again. As of September 30th, 2011 you can no longer send an update to fans using Facebook Messages. Here are some posts you might like with helpful hints on how to engage Facebook fans so that your page’s status updates will show up in their news feeds: 1 Idea for Using Facebook Questions To Engage Your Fans 6 Ways Educators Can Use Social Media to Engage Students […]

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