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Using social media in a classroom has many positives

Denying any form of social media communication to the children of today, will only alienate them and make teachers be out of touch with reality. The answer to students using social media is not to fight it but to embrace it

It is possibly counter intuitive to think that social media can be used to teach in secondary and post-secondary classrooms.

After all, don’t we spend all our time chiding children for spending time on their phones, mainly because they are on Tik Tok or ‘IG’ (Instagram)?

Effectively, that is exactly the point. Gone are the days when the negative effects of social media could be touted as a reason to dismiss it, and reprimand kids when they are using it. Social media is just so ubiquitous that it is impossible to ignore.

The statistics tell their own tale. In Oman, 70 per cent of youngsters over 13 are currently on social media of some kind, with WhatsApp and Instagram being the most popular, according to Digital2022: Oman. Internet penetration is at 95 per cent, with many individuals operating on multiple devices.

This has huge consequences for education. Other than outright banning of smartphones and tablets in classrooms, not much can be done to deny the use of the internet by students.

Even imposing that rule is not very successful, as even parents want their children to have a phone with them in case of emergencies – that is just how indispensable smart phones have become.

Perhaps it is too late to panic. After all, this is exactly what was said about television, calculators and even books when they first came out hundreds of years ago: no one will remember stories if they are written in a book!

Like everything else, social media is a tool.

Children today have been growing up with this tool since infancy. Denying them this form of communication will only alienate them and make teachers be out of touch with reality.

The answer to students using social media is not to fight it but to embrace it. There are many ways in which this could be done. It only requires creativity and commitment to see students as stakeholders in education, not passive consumers.

There is a world of experts out there who can communicate on topics and subjects effectively. Using them as a supplement in a class can only add to students’ intercultural knowledge and competence.

But more than a passive window to the world, social media can make students participate in real time. Creating blogs on specific topics, in which students can take turns to add, will add to student agency and make them responsible for real world learning.

Instagram and Twitter are used to teach key phrases to see how they are used by different people. Twitter actually is a good training ground to learn how to use language concisely. A Facebook group could be used to take a topic and discuss it with others in different parts of the world – almost like having a pen pal.

Learning to teach is a continuing process and if there is one rule, it is to stay in touch with ideas and concepts that emerge.

Resisting new ideas only sends the message that one is unwilling to learn – surely that is the wrong message for a teacher to send.

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