Social media is a term used to describe a variety of web-based platforms and applications that enable people to interact with one another online. Some of the more popular examples include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. There are literally hundreds of different social media sites, but they all have one thing in common – they are designed to help people create and share information, opinions, ideas, resources, and pictures/videos with friends, colleagues, and others in the virtual community.
Here we highlight four social media sites that have useful applications for educators. Twitter’s education chats and Pinterest’s education boards can strengthen your professional development and lesson plans. Skype in the Classroom and Instagram are tools you can use to enhance and share your students’ experiences. (Note: We understand that some schools place a restriction on using social media in the classroom, so please be sure to consult with administration before using social media with students.)
This video conferencing program can help you find guest speakers and invite them to address your classroom, or you can use it to collaborate with other classrooms, no matter where they are. For example, you could use Skype with PLT’s “Environmental Exchange Box” activity so that students from each classroom can discuss and ask questions together about the items they collected from their region. Whether you’re conferencing with a guest speaker or another class, have your students prepare questions ahead of time to make the most of your realtime chat.
Instagram is a popular photo sharing application particularly among young people who use it to share memorable moments by uploading photos with a short caption and a hashtag (a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) that identifies contributions to a specific topic.) Consider using Instagram to share pictures of your students doing a PLT activity, or post pictures and updates of a project your students implement to green their school or improve their neighborhood. Add the hashtag #projectlearningtree or #greenschools to provide a searchable link for others to easily find your content on the same topic. Instagram is a quick and fun way to document your students’ progress and celebrate their accomplishments along the way, and you can invite students to share updates from their point of view using the hashtag you designate.
Education-related discussions on Twitter attract passionate educators who are dedicated to improving their professional practice and sharing tips and resources with others. These chats take place when a group of educators “meet” on Twitter at a specified time, using a specific hashtag. One of the most popular moderated chats is #edchat, held every Tuesday from noon-1pm and 7-8pm EDT. Join the conversation to discuss and learn about current teaching trends, education reform, solve an issue at your school, exchange ideas to improve a lesson plan, etc. There are also many other weekly education chats more focused on a specific grade level, or topic, such as STEM (#STEMchat) or new teachers chat (#NTchat).
Pinterest is a social scrapbooking site that has become very popular with teachers looking for teaching ideas, lesson plans, arts and crafts, ways to organize and decorate a classroom, and many other resources. Browse education-themed bulletin boards and once you have created a Pinterest account, re-pin ideas on your own bulletin board for later use. You can set up different boards and arrange your ideas by theme, subject, date, or grade level, for example. At National PLT, we have established 18 boards where we pin ideas around topics such as “Nature Crafts” and “School Gardens.” Check us out and try Pinterest for yourself as a classroom resource and a place to share your own activity ideas.
PLT is also on Facebook. If you haven’t already, “like” National Project Learning Tree on Facebook to see our posts around environmental education tips and resources, PLT news and updates, as well as other relevant, fun, and inspirational tidbits. Be sure to also visit your state PLT program’s Facebook page for local news and resources.