Using Social Media in Learning

Now more than ever, especially during this pandemic, social distancing is becoming a norm. As such, social media is quickly gaining importance and viability in classroom settings. Livestreaming lectures, organising an ask-and-tell between teachers and students as well as enhancing students’ technological proficiency are all made possible with social media.

Social media can be a double-edged sword which is often looked upon as a distraction by the older generation but if used with the right intent, can enhance our learning. Here are some benefits of using social media in learning.

Benefits of Social Media in Learning

Cognitive Stimulation

Because it is so visual and stimulating, social media can and should be used as an advantageous tool to aid learning activities. It allows students to absorb content better and deviates from the traditional and oftentimes, boring way in which lessons are taught. Social media makes room for creativity and encourages engagement between students and their teachers. Research shows that frequent use of social media promotes innovation and better memory retention while studying.

It is easy to tap into social media with students. As they are already aligned with the various platforms out there, students have the innate capacity to quickly grasp and use social media for learning like it is second nature.

Better Involvement in Learning Content

Creating a Facebook page allows students to follow updates, share assignments and encourage healthy discussion between peers and teachers. Introverts might be a little keener to participate online rather than in person without the added pressure of public speaking. Facebook also allows for livestream lectures and enables students to get involved in discussions. This helps to free up time for other topics, discussion and assignments as students need only review past lectures online by simply revisiting the post if a refresher is needed. It does away with the old method of notetaking and eliminates the risk of being left behind if a student misses or skips a class.  

Builds on Technological Competency

Instagram is a great platform to encourage digital storytelling and improves the technological skills of students. Any student looking to embark on a career would find that the use and practice of social media during their time at school will most certainly give them a leg up in their professional careers later on in life.

Improves Writing Skills 

Creating blog posts is another example to help students hone their writing skills. It encourages critical thinking by learning through social media. This boosts one’s vocabulary and grammar whilst expanding students’ creative thinking skills. Through practice, students tend to be better writers and improve their language fluency. They also learn to articulate themselves by getting to the point quicker. For example, posting on Twitter restricts students from writing more than 280 characters. Students who apply these critical thinking and creative skills tend to do better academically as well.

Helps Parents and Students Understand a Learning Environment

Social media not only helps students with learning, it also helps parents understand the kind of learning environment a school can offer. Many schools use social media as a marketing medium to reach out to potential students and parents, helping these people to discover an institution better with visual aids. Posting pictures, blogs and partaking in video interviews with alumni and current students offer parents and students a glimpse behind the scenes of what the future holds for them should they enrol there. While maintaining a website is a business necessity, social media is a vital add-on factor which helps viewers to see if the school is a good fit for them.

Builds a Support System for Students

In every learning environment, there needs to be a support system in place for students. Social media keeps parents and students updated on what is currently going on at school or if there happens to be a sudden emergency. It reaches the vast network of parents almost instantly through notifications on their newsfeed and keeps them connected to their children with events and activities happening in real time. This is certainly an upgrade from the past when the norm was receiving a phone call, obscure text, or email long after a situation has died down. With better communication, parents and schools can work together to better provide for their students’ needs.

Instant Communication

There is a broader and much more instant communication between peers. This has also created a less formal way of interaction and collaboration with teachers and allows students to grasp information readily. For example, through Facebook groups, communication is sped up between students and teachers and among themselves. Students are able to learn faster and complete group projects more efficiently.

Opportunities for Remote Learning

Another important point that must be highlighted is that social media bridges the gap of distance learning. It has given students in the most remote locations an opportunity to receive an education that otherwise could not be afforded to them. Platforms like Skype enable these remote students to participate in a virtual class, helping them to learn a new language or pick up new skills.  

Fosters Camaraderie

Social media includes students and educators in an online community where similar interests are shared. It fosters school spirit and camaraderie, be it in the form of posting a few words of encouragement to a winning sports team or sending a helpful tip to fellow students in need. Social media tends to bring people together during and even after their learning journey. It creates new friendships and helps to sustain them.

As much as there are many benefits to using social media, it is important to understand the potential drawbacks of using social media and how it can affect students and their mental wellbeing. Feelings of inadequacy may arise and feed into self-esteem issues if social media encourages students to compare their lives and experiences with each other. They might feel disconnected and isolated seeing others having a good time with their friends. Social media may also be addictive and encourage procrastination, distracting students from completing their work. Additionally, there is a risk of cyberbullying when students are interacting online.

With pros and cons in mind, parents can think of ways to set healthy boundaries for children to use social media. Limited time can be given for the use of social media for purposes other than learning. There can be ‘Digital Detox Days’, where parent and child can go out together for bonding activities. Keep conversations open and ensure that any misconceptions or negative experiences about social media are addressed. This helps with mitigating any risks posed by social media, while ensuring that the benefits of using it are still reaped.

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