Social Media Gives Students A Voice In the Classroom

May 13, 2011

Pokémon cards, yo-yos and cellphones have all been banned from the classroom at one time or another. More often than not, teachers simply got tired of the distraction they caused and moved swiftly to confiscate them. For many teachers, computers share the same distracting qualities as the aforementioned objects, but for a minority of teachers, computers have created backchannels into classrooms that have opened up discussions and allowed the more quiet individuals to express themselves through a medium they are more comfortable with. The New York Times explores the efforts of some teachers to incorporate social media and tools such as Google Moderator and Today’s Meet into classrooms, and the resulting benefits for the students and the teaching environment alike.

With Twitter and other microblogging platforms, teachers from elementary schools to universities are setting up what is known as a “backchannel” in their classes. The real-time digital streams allow students to comment, pose questions (answered either by one another or the teacher) and shed inhibitions about voicing opinions. Perhaps most importantly, if they are texting on-task, they are less likely to be texting about something else.

Nicholas Provenzano, an English teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School, outside Detroit, said that in a class of 30, only about 12 usually carried the conversation, but that eight more might pipe up on a backchannel. “Another eight kids entering a discussion is huge,” he noted.

Read more about the effects of social media on the classroom.

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