It’s said so often that it’s become a truism: Millennials and the generations following them are digital natives, people who have had access to pocket sized technology their whole lives. How do you reach college students who are digital natives in a way that resonates with their technology-infused world view?

Part of the way to extend learning beyond the classroom can be to integrate the use of social media into your course. This doesn’t just mean Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, although all of those platforms can be useful. There are many ways to draw your students into a digital conversation, using hashtags, peer critiques in an online medium, or even location based services. Consider some of the ways using social media can benefit your class’s ongoing conversation.

Social media options

According to Melissa Barker in Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach 2nd edition, “social interactions facilitated by the Internet are termed social media platforms.” It’s a simple enough definition, but are all social media platforms alike? No. Barker breaks up the platforms into further categories to make it easier to grasp how and when to use them. There are 13 types of platforms, but among them the most useful for classrooms might be:

  • Social networking sites. These include Facebook, Google Plus (Google+), and LinkedIn.
  • Microblogging sites. Twitter and Tumblr are two different types of microblogging sites.
  • Collaboration tools. The most famous (or infamous) of these is Wikipedia, but there are a number of wiki tools for a wide variety of topics.
  • Photo sharing sites. Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr are among these.
  • Video sharing sites. YouTube is the dominant site in the market, but Vimeo is a contender.
  • Location based services. Foursquare and Yelp are among these.

Social media in the classroom

It’s pretty likely that if your students have their cell phones in class, they might be checking their social media during a lecture or discussion anyway. How can you turn that distraction into a useful classroom tool?

  • For Facebook, create a classroom group (possibly using a class account distinct from your personal account). Have your students join the group and post discussions about the research they are doing for class. You can post current articles for discussion, as the latest news about your topic might first be available on the Internet or in a subscription database such as Questia, accessed through the campus library, rather than in print journals. Ask students at the beginning of your course if they would like to have their participation graded on in-class only participation, or their Facebook participation as well.
  • Google Plus or Google Hangouts has a video chat option. If your students want to do a study session from their own dorm rooms, you can encourage them to use this tool. This is an excellent way to communicate with students in online learning situations as well.
  • Use hashtags in Twitter discussions to extend classroom conversations into guest lectures or presentations. Some students may even livetweet a lecture with their commentary. Returning to that hashtag can help recall notes from the lecture or discussion.
  • Instagram can be used to post both visual and textual information of an event or of fieldwork your students are doing. If they are doing ethnographic research, cataloging art, or creating their own photography projects, this is an easy way to share.

What other ways have you integrated social media into your classroom? Tell us in the comments.

Reference: Barker, Melissa. 2017. Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.