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How does social media fit into the classroom?

Social media, students' expansive tech knowledge continue to stump teachers

Social media is increasingly used for teachers’ professional learning, but teachers seem more hesitant to use it as a learning tool with students, according to a survey from the University of Phoenix and Harris Poll .

Sixteen percent of the 1,000 K-12 teachers in the survey said they use social media in the classroom, and 28 percent said they do not, but would like to. But slightly more than half (56 percent) said they do not use social media with students and have no plans to do so.

“I think that 44 percent of teachers who use or would like to use social media in the classroom do so, or would like to do so, because in our casual and social use, we go to our social media to learn about things,” said Pam Roggeman, academic dean for University of Phoenix College of Education..

Forty-seven percent of teachers said students’ participation in social media with their teachers can enhance their educational experience, though just 23 percent said they encourage their own students to connect with them on social media.

(Next page: Are teachers afraid of conflicts with social media use?)

Most teachers (83 percent) said they worry about conflicts arising from social media interaction with students and/or parents; 76 percent said they believe parents use social media to monitor teachers’ work and/or personal lives; and 35 percent said they have experienced issues with students and/or parents connecting with them via social media.

Thirty-three percent of teachers use social media for both personal and professional purposes. One-third use the same account for both purposes and two-thirds have different accounts.

Classroom social media use offers a good platform to talk about behavior and what is and is not acceptable on social media, Roggeman added.

“In the classroom is the perfect opportunity to talk about how we behave, what is ethical inside and outside our classroom, and what that entails,” she said. “It’s fun and it’s interesting, but it brings with it a large responsibility.”

The survey also examined the types of technology tools in classrooms and how often those tools and resources are used.

Laptops remain the most-used classroom resource—86 percent of teachers use them, followed by 67 percent of teachers using interactive whiteboards and 65 percent using tablets and/or e-readers. Thirty-three percent of teachers report using digital games and simulations.

“So many districts have recognized it’s much more cost-effective to purchase laptops for students,” Roggeman said. “One of the biggest K-12 curriculum costs is the materials. But with laptops, you can update those resources almost instantaneously. I was expecting the survey to say the most popular technology was smartphones, because they’re the most accessible—and I do think teachers use them frequently, but laptops are still the most common resource.”

Roggeman also predicted a continued increase in digital tools and materials.

“Digital resources are really making their way into the classroom in larger numbers,” she said. “Google apps, social media, games, simulations, e-books—the K-12 classroom is looking and feeling a bit more like a university classroom. As you move into the digital age, you have access rather than a hard resource.”

Sixty-three percent of teachers said they use technology every day, and 25 percent use it 1-2 times per week. And most teachers said it enhances teaching and learning.

“Sixty-five percent teachers reported that technology does help students stay more engaged in their learning, and that does help teachers; they said it’s a good aid in making learning a bit more interactive,” Roggeman said. “It helps students dig deeper into subjects where they might want to learn more. It helps the student become a partner with their teacher, in terms of learning resources.”

A surprising number of teachers are still intimidated by students’ technology knowledge—5 percent said they strongly agree that they are and 20 percent said they somewhat agree, while 75 percent said they either somewhat or strongly disagree with the statement.

“That surprised me. If there was ever technology in my classroom I didn’t understand, I’d ask students for help and invariably, five hands would go up,” Roggeman said. “One of teachers’ greatest classroom resources is their students.”

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