This week, we explored ways social media is being used by teachers with students in the classroom. Our challenge was to curate a set of resources that featured projects by which students explored and created content through social media. This proved quite challenging as many resources available online were how to articles or suggestions rather than detailed accounts of classroom expeditions into the realm of social media. This leads me to believe that one of two factors have resulted in this lack of information. Either history teachers are not using social media with their students in the classroom or they are not documenting their experiences doing such activities. Both issues present challenges for teachers with a desire to attempt using social media.
Of the resources that are available online, I found that many shared several characteristics. Often, the teachers who choose to having students explore history using social media do so in highly innovative ways. Several have students explore prominent figures – modern or historical – using tools such as Facebook or Twitter. Others use these tools to extend their classroom walls globally. These teachers clearly are well versed in their content and comfortable with the practice of teaching. They undoubtedly keep up with educational trends and professional development. I would also guess that they are not afraid of a challenging project.
When used effectively, these projects allow students to go beyond the content to explore the potential of social media from a professional perspective. One project has students edit Wikipedia articles and monitor the changes on the articles over a period of time. Another teacher asked students to reach out to world leaders via Twitter and request class interviews conducted via Skype. Not only do these students learn how to effectively and appropriately use the social media tools, but often the process becomes transformative revealing their great potential to share and connect across vast distances.
Most of the resources shared in this curated set are things that I would be willing to try myself as a teacher of history online. I am most intrigued by the assignment to have students edit and monitor a Wikipedia entry and am considering having students complete an assignment doing so in my Texas History course this coming fall. As an instructional coach, I am already planning on recommending the historical figure and timeline Facebook activities to several of our US History teachers as a way to help students better understand the people included in our standards.
After all of this reflecting, I hope you are ready to see my curated set on Social Media Projects in the History Classroom. I would love to hear your thoughts on the curation via the comments below. Also, if you know of any great history projects using social media, share the story or links in the comments as well. Thanks, in advance, for reading!