Pros and cons of social media in classroom

A recent article in Campus Technology discussed the pros and cons of using social media in the classroom.  Actually, its a topic I’ve heard about from a number of different realms.  It is definitely all the rage right now.  But is using social media in the classroom a good idea?

Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons listed in the Campus Tech article:

Pros:

Educational tool
Enhanced engagement
Improved communication
Preparing for success

Cons:

Distraction
Cyberbullying
Decreased FTF communication

 

First I’ll disclose that I tend to support the use of social media in facilitating learning.  Now that I’ve done that, I will share with you why I think one of the cons- distraction- is actually a pro.

You’ve probably seen this or something similar to it lately:

I know when you're texting
“…I know when you’re texting…”

This makes me laugh every time I see it.  We can all relate to it, right?  The fact is that our students are texting in class…or following twitter…or spying on their friends in Facebook.

Many believe that using social media will distract students in class.  While probably true, I think its a functional distraction.  Think about the last time you sat in a classroom or a conference session.  How often did you find your mind wandering?  How often were you glancing at something else or planning your next move before you regained your focus and realized you had missed something?  We all do it.  We are generally distracted people.  Our students do the same thing; only their way is to text, tweet, or otherwise.

So, by using social media within your classrom, is gives your students an opportunity to redirect their mind to something else, while still being on-topic.

I sat in a conference last month and loved monitoring and contributing to the back channel (Twitter feed).  It gave me the opportunity to jot down those “pearls of wisdom” I caught from the presentations, and pass those along to others (some who were there, and some who were not).  I now have an archive (in Twitter) of all of the “pearls” from me and others in attendance.  In the meantime, I feel like I stayed focused on the topic at hand the entire time.

I would love to run a back channel in one of my classes as a way to keep students engaged and ensure questions and thoughts are being addressed (as my courses are team taught I haven’t yet done it).  For me it comes down to this: I would rather my students be looking at something related to my topic then not related to my topic.

What are your thoughts on using social media in the classroom.  What have you done?  How have you used it?

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