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As you start using social media in the classroom, it's really important to understand the concept of the hashtag. Now a hashtag is just a word or an un-spaced phrase starting with a pound or number sign. This makes the word or phrase searchable. So for example, on the screen I've used a pound sign in front of the word hashtag. If I included this inside of a post, whether it be on Facebook or twitter, and then I go into a Google search, and I search for hashtag. My post because it contains this particular word, with this symbol in front of it, will now be included in those search results.
One of the most common places the hashtag is used is on Twitter. When I'm in Twitter and I'm making a post, sometimes there's certain words inside the post that I want people to be able to search for. And so I'll put a pound sign or a number sign in front of them. Or maybe at the end of my post, I say, I want this to be available for teachers, and so I'll put a pound sign and then write the word teachers. Inside of Twitter, if I then type in the word teachers into a search result, that particular Twitter post will then be included in those search results. Both you and your students can learn to use hashtags as an important part of both finding and contributing to the online conversation.
One way that I love to use Twitter is for homework discussion. Students can go home, and then they can have a conversation about the homework, or seek help about the homework, from their classmates. Once again, hashtags can help us refine this process. If you create a classroom hashtag such as yourclassroomhw, students can then apply that hashtag to the homework discussion. You can also do class updates via Twitter. In the morning, you can tell your students if class is delayed because of snow, and then I guarantee you, they'll take a look at your Twitter update in the future. You can also share research ideas through Twitter.
As students are working on a project and they find a really cool website or article, they can tweet that to the rest of the class with the hashtag of research idea. And the flip side of that is students can also search for research ideas on Twitter. If you took your entire class to a computer lab and had them spend an hour looking for various websites on a certain topic, and then tweeting those websites with a certain hashtag, by the end of that hour you could search that hashtag, and have a great list of research ideas you could then send out to the rest of your class. Facebook is another social media that has a lot of application inside of the classroom. Using Facebook, you can create a class page the same way that you as an individual might have a Facebook page, your class can function the same way.
There can be a title for the class, you can post information to the class' wall, you can add students to the class as friends. And this can allow you to centralize communication for everything that happens inside of your class. You can also create collaboration groups over Facebook. Students can join the group and then send a single communication out that is automatically carbon copying to every member of the group. This is a great tool for teaching students appropriate online communication and to keep your collaboration groups organized. There's a lot of student to teacher communication that can happen through Facebook as well. Because Facebook gives you the ability to post to a wall or send a direct message students and teachers can have the appropriate level of conversation with the appropriate level of privacy.
And there's also a lot of classroom interactive communication that happens on Facebook. It creates a place where students can share their ideas with a larger community. Instagram is also becoming a popular social media tool inside of the classroom. If you're not familiar with Instagram it functions a lot like Twitter except for it's photo-based. You can take a photo and you can upload it to your Instagram account which is then automatically shared with the people that follow you on Instagram. This is a great way to create a digital bulletin board. If you have student projects or student work that's absolutely outstanding you can snap a quick photo of it.
Once again, be careful not to take pictures of your students and be careful to not take pictures of student names on work. A few things to keep in mind, if you have student names written around your room you also need to make sure that they're not included in the pictures. You can then turn the control of Instagram over to your students and have them do digital storytelling. Students can create Instagram accounts and then throughout the day, take certain photos in order to tell a story. Or they can search for the right photo in order to share a response they have to a piece of work or reading that they've done. Field trip scavenger hunts are another great idea for Instagram.
A lot of times, on field trips, it's important to make sure that students know what their learning goals are. Often with very little work, you can create a scavenger hunt that asks students to seek out and to take photos of the parts of the field trip that you would like them to put emphasis on. And also, it gives students the ability to look for real world connections to content. A really wonderful extra credit or bonus assignment is to have students take pictures of how they see their learning played out in the real world. So for example, if you're a math teacher and your teaching students a new math concept and throughout the day they see that math concept being used, they can snap a picture of it, add a hashtag to that photo of math homework, or whatever you choose the hashtag to be and you can search for and pull up those student real world connections.
Now going back to some of the concerns we have with using social media in the classroom, TodaysMeet allows us to overcome some of those concerns. What TodaysMeet is, it's the ability to create a Twitter-like feed that's isolated to your classroom. You, the educator, can go in and create a room, which is like creating a Twitter group. And then, once you give students access to the room, they can have an ongoing dialogue that's isolated, meaning it's not open to the entire world on the Internet. TodaysMeet can be great to use for video discussions. As students are watching a video in your classroom, they can be communicating through TodaysMeet with the rest of the classmates around them.
They could be having discussions and asking questions about the content. They can be talking about things that are exciting to them. And what I found in my own classroom is it actually engages students in the learning of the video. They're no longer passively sitting and watching, but they're actively engaged in what's being said. It's also a great space for classroom debates. Students can use Todays Meet as a way to disagree with their classmates in a safe and controlled environment. It's also great for presentation questions. If you have a speaker in the classroom or if you have students speaking to the classroom, allowing them to ask questions of the presenter in TodaysMeet means they're not going to interrupt the presentation.
At the end of the presentation, the presenter can take a look at the entire TodaysMeet dialogue, pull out the questions they'd like to answer, and re-address the class. It's also wonderful for reading responses. I found that as students are working through the book, whether it be a textbook or non-fiction or fiction book, they can have TodaysMeet open on a laptop or an iPad and as they find connections to the book or they have questions about the book, they can send it out to the rest of the class. The class can then read those questions and responses and reply back to them. What I found in my own classroom is that at the end of a TodaysMeet reading session students have actually engaged with the content at a deeper level.
I hope you have an opportunity to explore the idea of using social media in your own classroom. And if you do decide to use it, I hope that these tips and tricks can be great instructional tools for both you and your students.
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