by Lila Daniels
Our kids live on social media these days. One crucial way to make learning relevant is to meet ’em where they live, which means finding social media sites that work in the classroom. Social media organically dovetails with subjects like language arts and social studies, but tech savvy teachers know that collaboration can work in any classroom.
Not all social media sites are equal — and not everyone is comfortable turning their students lose on Facebook or Twitter. Here are 10 Top sites that are safe while still engaging.
10 Best Social Media Sites For Students & Teachers
Twiducate: Described as a “walled garden,” this site is billed as a safe site for teachers and students to collaborate. It’s easily accessible and allows teachers to create a class community online using a class code rather than an email address. It also allows teachers to have total control over who is a member and what gets posted. And, it’s free.
TweenTribune: Want to join up with a site that hooks kids on current events? TweenTribune lets students stay up-to-date with current events from the Easthampton student whose tongue froze to a metal pole to a proposal by New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie to lengthen the school day and the school year. It gets students in the news habit and offers a chance for them to comment on the days events. Unfortunately, it does have advertisements (though, what news outlet doesn’t). It sticks to the upbeat news of the day–don’t log on expecting the latest on the Syria conflict.
Blackboard: This the industry leader in course management systems, but it isn’t something you can adopt on your own. The decision to use Blackboard is usually made at the district level, though occasionally by individual schools. Blackboard is an incredibly powerful, safe and comprehensive platform. Many newer teachers will already be familiar with it from their teacher training programs. The downside is cost. This is a very expensive platform, but you pay for quality. That said, it will lack some flexibility for its most tech-savvy teachers.
EDU2.0: This is for teachers looking to integrate course management systems like Blackboard, without the cost. Edu2.0 starts out by offering all it’s premium features on a free trial basis. At the end of the trial period, those features turn off and you can still use the basic platform for free. These features will be plenty for the average user, but may be enough for “power users.” Edu2.0 is cloud-based and requires no significant investment in storage capacity.
Wikispaces Classroom: Collaboration is second nature to Wiki users and Wiki Classroom proves it’s no exception. Wiki Classrooms are private social networks complete with news feeds and communication tools. It’s safe because you decide who’s invited — students, parents, administrators. You can assign, collaborate on, discuss and assess projects all within the site. It can even handle multimedia. The best part, Wikispaces Classroom is free.
Edmodo: Here’s another excellent, free classroom management system. It includes news feeds, assessment tools, communication capabilities and security features.
Skype: Too many educators overlook the potential of Skype in the classrooms. It is the one site that can literally bring the outside world right into your classroom. You can host authors, visit science labs or talk to pen pals from across the globe.
MinecraftEdu: The secret of MinecraftEdu is its ability to harness the power of video games to engage learners. This game allows students to collaborative, explore and problem solve all while learning about history, economics, science and math. Teachers can customize it to fit their curriculum.
Sumdog: This gaming site is kind of like flashcards on steroids. Elementary school age kids love this site. The social aspect is the ability to add friends to their accounts. Kids will race home from school to play them online. It has fun levels and clever characters.
Twitter: Not everyone loves Twitter in the classroom, and there may be good reasons for that. However, it makes the Top 10 because students love it and they use it. Setting up a GroupTweet account lets you moderate who joins and what gets posted. It is also important to keep the account strictly business.
Social Media As A Tool To Develop Students’ Voices
One of the major benefits of using social media with students is teaching them to communicate openly, honestly, and, above all, kindly with their peers. The perceived privacy or anonymity of being online is especially freeing for boys, who may otherwise feel it is uncool to engage in class discussions or to show their emotions. Therefore, it is imperative to use this teachable moment to promote compassionate communication.
Your school and your classroom need to have solid guidelines in place before you introduce technology. This keeps everyone safe and ensures your students only harness the power of social media for good. In this age of cyber-bullying kids need to learn that online behavior has real-world consequences. The bottom line of social networking in schools is that if you wouldn’t do it in class, you shouldn’t do it online.
Lila Daniels is a freelance writer living in Vermont. She previously worked in higher education publishing and as a high school art teacher. She writes on education and art for online publications, including OnlineSchools.com; 10 Social Media Sites For Education