How To Use Social Media In Education (Part 1 of 2)

“When you step away from the prepackaged structure of traditional education, you’ll discover that there are many more ways to learn outside school than within.”

- Kio Start

social mediaIn this article, we have analysed the impact of social media on the education sector while also empathizing with educators on their resistance to the use of it in the classroom. We will then look at few classic real classroom examples of how teachers, students and administrators are harnessing social media to create a better learning environment and reforming public education.

Social Media As A Key Driver of Communication

Social media is often seen as the key driver of communications and marketing. If we talk about the education, universities, colleges & schools are striving hard to build a good social presence. Students want to get a feel of what the institution is really like from their Facebook page. That’s why every educational institution wants to be seen in ‘The Great College Search’ on the internet. So currently, educators are using Social Media to maximize student enrollments, alumni engagement and increasing media outreach.

In 2012-13, The US department of Commerce ranked 55 industry sectors for their IT intensiveness, education ranked lowest (below coal mining). Education industry that bears the responsibility to prepare children for the world of tomorrow, itself is not ready to embrace the digital revolution with an open mind.

We’re not talking about the number of machines lying in your computer lab or iPads in the classroom. We’re talking about the motivation behind having these machines – digital education in true sense.

Let’s open up our vision from seeing social media as just another distraction to seeing it as an opportunity to build a more meaningful education system for teachers and students.

We humans have a whole history of being resistant to change.

Why Resistance?

If you’re an educator, let us take you back to your early days when you were a student. Learning in schools was about daily lectures on various subjects and topics; and students using their textbooks as their only source of knowledge. You had no Google or any social media website like Youtube, Twitter, Wikipedia etc to help if you didn’t understand a lesson given by the class teacher. The only alternate to a school teacher was home tutions but that used to take away precious hours from the time that we could’ve put in the things we truly loved, such as playing football, music, dancing and doing things that every kid or teenager wants to do in this age.

It’s this learning background why today, many of us as educators are resistant to Social Media and failing to adopt to the new ways of education. The students of the Internet generation don’t have the same constraints we had back then.

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson on how to reform public education system:


Many schools ask their teachers to avoid friending their students on Facebook. Sometimes the assumptions of stereotype educators about young teenage students using social media get in their way. May be unintentionally, but some educators are posing a complex social conflict for students.

Many of us might believe that social media is a place where students impulsively reveal their private lives for the world to see. It’s not true. Recent survey done by Facebook reveals that the new youth is deliberate about what they post. Any impression they leave on their social network is deliberate.

You can compare it with how students use their clothing, hairstyle, shoes etc to leave a particular impression on the people around them. Similarly, they use social media to share things to enhance that image.

If educators don’t pay respect to the new ways of expression of youth, they will remain defensive and less likely engaging with their teachers on social media.

Indeed there are some real risks attached with children using social media and it can’t be taken lightly. But there are also dangers in crossing a road. Do we tell our kids not to cross the road? No, we don’t! We hold their hand and tell them how to do it.

Teens should be told about what is appropriate in communication on social media. Parents and teachers should teach them about privacy settings, how world outside may interpret certain content.

They need to be told that their profile and album pictures need to be acceptable, without a teacher having to intervene.

Educators must show teens a level of respect as they create their space online to express themselves as individual. If you are connected with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media channel, show them the same respect that you would in public situations. This is not the place to correct their language or remind them to finish their assignments. Last thing you want to do is berate them in front of their friends on a social networking site. Try to understand their world.

For many of us, our online life and offline life are different. It’s hard for us to adopt to this new Social Media ideology because we were born and brought-up in a completely offline environment.

On the other hand, Social media for teens is an extension of their lives – a medium of expression which we adult educators didn’t have in their age.


According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, teens are taking steps to protect their privacy. The survey finds:
60% of teen Facebook users set their Facebook profiles to private and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings.
89% of teens say managing their Facebook privacy settings is ‘not difficult at all’ or ‘not too difficult’.
Students are cognizant of their online reputations, and take steps to curate the content and appearance of their social media presence.

Critical Thinking

As educators, one of the best pieces of advice you can give to students regarding use of social media is to ‘think’ before they post. Encourage them to review their privacy settings. If they post anything they later regret, they should apologize to the recipient and offer to make amends. It’s quite similar to how parents tell their children how they should behave in public.

Power of Reasoning

What is the most important instrument of any learner? It’s the power to ask questions. These questions are born from real life experiences – when students apply the acquired knowledge in their daily lives.

Using social media as an expression medium is one of the steps that we as educators need to take.
The future of education is in helping children experience curiosity, wonder, and joy through playful learning.

Take a look at the following 4 minute video. It’s a collection of VINE looping videos (all under 6 seconds) created by teachers and students using Vine to demonstrate various lessons of science.

How many science lessons does this 4 minutes video pops in your brain? Does this video make you curious to learn more? You bet, it does. This is what Social Media can do. It can make education fun, interactive and collaborative.

In our time, we didn’t have access to many people to whom we could ask questions or share our experiences with. With social media, there are more exciting ways to ask questions than anytime in the history.

A New Generation of Communicators

The students of today are big communicators through emails, social media and instant messaging. They are more connected to the outside world than how much we were at their age. If they have a question today, they will not wait for another day to go to the school and ask teacher. They will access the information on their smartphone in a matter of few seconds. No matter where the student lives, he/she has access to the best teachers of the world. Social Media has bridged the gap between students and the highest quality study material they need for learning.

If you’re among those institutions that don’t allow use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc in the classroom, here is a reality check. The moment, students of your institution step out of your institution premise, they are exposed to a much more stimulating learning experience than what they had in your brick and mortar location.

So irrespective of whether or not you as an institution are ready to embrace the new digital ways of teaching, the revolution is already happening. If educators are left behind on social media, they will also fail in the simple role of being cultivators of curiosity.

Shifting Role of Educators

A modern school needs to be a lot more than brick and mortar of studies. The unique advantage of being ‘source’ of education is gone. Quality or Quantity of educational content can no longer be benchmark of quality of education for a school; high quality educational content everywhere on the Internet.

For example – it’s no more the responsibility of school to make a student memorize birthday of Martin Luther King. This information is everywhere on the Internet. A student can get this information using Google on smartphone in a matter of a seconds. The role of teachers comes into play when there is something that a student can’t find and understand using mobile device in less than 2 minutes.

Thus, the role of school has shifted from being the source of knowledge to the validator & applier of knowledge.

As an institution, Vanderbilt has been an early and eager adopter of social media. These tools enable the university to share what is happening on campus with the world, but more importantly let us hear directly and immediately from students, faculty, staff, parents, fans and friends about what is important to them. This “conversation” is what makes social media so different from traditional forms of institutional communication.
– Vanderbilt university on Social Media

Do you know that a lecture that you think will be good for the whole class might actually be useful to only 20% of the class. The new generation teachers need to have access to the data about where the students are having problems in understanding the lectures. Teachers also need to know their own areas of improvement. The classroom experience for the students needs to be made more targeted.

Look for Part 2 of this discussion tomorrow – we’ll talk about applying social media to education.


  1. SSpencer

    May 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    “the role of school has shifted from being the source of knowledge to the validator & applier of knowledge.” What a fantastic statement! For years, I have been hearing in my school district how the role of education is changing, but everyone has been reluctant to make the step into social media for education. This article makes a great argument about why we should embrace FB, Twitter, etc. to connect with students where they ‘live’.

  2. aysha

    June 4, 2014 at 9:39 am

    How could I do like experience in biology

  3. article

    July 11, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes which will make the most significant changes.
    Thanks for sharing!