New Media in the Classroom: Technology & Social Media as Effective Teaching Tools

October 1st, 2013 | by Michelle Manno
New Media in the Classroom: Technology & Social Media as Effective Teaching Tools

Tech in the Classroom


The rule of no cell phones in school may be shifting gears. Recently, schools and teachers are encouraging students to bring their own phones, ipads, and other “smart” devices into the classroom. This cultural trend is referred to as “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device.) Lisa Nielsen – public school educator, administrator, and founder of The Innovative Educator – is a pioneer in the frontier of technology education, allowing her students to actively use their own devices in the classroom. Co-author of Teaching Generation Text, Nielsen is a strong advocate of BYOD, encouraging her students to use their mobile devices and social media applications during class. Examples of her in-class technology include providing students with access to Twitter during class time to confer with experts on difficult subject matter.

This Bring Your Own Device initiative, first popularized in the workplace, opens up the discussion of embracing and encouraging all forms of technology inside the classroom. In a cultural climate that is fixated on smart phones, apps, and social media, it makes sense for the educational community to adjust its view accordingly.

Technology in Schools

Technology is making its way into the American education system on all fronts. Schools such as NYU and Penn State online are offering graduate programs in Classroom Technology in order to prepare teachers for the contemporary classroom. Teachers are taking courses on how to best-utilize the internet in their lesson plans, or how to use Twitter and Pinterest as means of student assessment. Preparing our teachers for classroom technology is crucial. Studies show that our idea of the classroom is changing; technology is transforming the way that students learn. Schools are deploying tablet programs which provides schools, classrooms, and individual students with iPads and tablets as part of their school supplies.

Top Apps for Educators

The implementation of tablets in classrooms across America provides teachers with the opportunity to take advantage of the number of educational apps that are available on the iPad and other tablet devices. Educational apps allow student and teachers to access and comprehend information in innovative ways to peak student engagement and motivation. Common Sense Media rates and reviews the best apps and educational games depending on developmental and skill levels. See below for more of the top apps across content areas:

#Connected: Social Media in the Classroom

Social media is inextricably linked to all aspects of our lives. While our education system is no stranger to the consequences of social media, there has been a recent increase in teachers and schools utilizing this social phenomenon for the greater good – implementing sites such as Facebook and Twitter as part of lesson plans, curriculum development, and student assessment. Bringing social media into the classroom is a powerful teaching and learning tool.

Below are some resources for using social media in your lesson plans and assessment:

  • Facebook: Create a fictitious Facebook profile or fan page for a literary character – A contemporary spin on the classic (and dreaded) book report, assign students to create a Facebook for a character or historical figure. Upload pictures and edit their background information. What kind of pages would they like? What would their status updates say? Who would their friends be? Using Facebook as a means of student assessment almost guarantees student engagement, motivation, and inadvertently, academic success.

  • Twitter:Track a #hashtag. Educators can incorporate Twitter and hashtags into a lesson on trends and communication in the digital age. Also, use hashtags to organize and facilitate conversations on important subject matter or literary symbolism (Discussing The Great Gatsby? Have students share their insights on #thegreenlight)

  • Pinterest: Use Pinterest as a means of visual organization. Students can pin ideas, resources, and inspiration for term papers and research projects, or create a collaborative board to stay organized for a group project.

Visit Edudemic for more ways to incorporate social media platforms, wikis, and blogs into your teaching practice.

Transforming Special Education

The field of Special Education has benefitted tremendously from the influx of classroom technology and educational apps. Companies such as Apple have dedicated themselves to transforming Special Education, creating operating systems with built-in accessibility features for children, students, and adults with differing physical and developmental needs. Both their mobile (iOS) and computer (OS X) operating systems integrate the unique needs of students with special needs, including features such as AssistiveTouch, built-in braille support, Sticky/Slow Keys, and VoiceOver.

Aside from operating systems, there exists a wide variety of educational apps and programs designed to meet the unique academic, developmental, and physical needs of Special Education students. Tech in Special Ed provides teachers with a collection of over 500 Special Education apps, organized by IEP goals, skills, and objectives. Categories include comprehension, following directions, handwriting and fine motor skills, and social skills development.

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