Social Media Apprehensions in Public K-12 Education

21st Century Classroom

(Photo Credit: nscollegeprep.cps.k12.il.us)

Although higher education professors and instructors are increasingly embracing and implementing social media in the classroom, many public K-12 teachers have been highly averse to employing social media in the classroom.  K-12 teachers understand they are responsible for ensuring student safety.  Many teachers contend it’s too difficult to monitor all activities that transpire on various social media platforms, and they see the inability to supervise all activities that can occur via social media as creating numerous potential safety risks.  It can be quite challenging to explain to administrators and parents why the use of social media in the classroom is worth potential safety risks.  If something undesirable happens involving one or more students using social media as part of instructional activities, then many administrators and parents will pose serious questions about whether teachers had the best interests of students in mind during instructional planning.  Many public K-12 teachers fear the probing scrutiny that may be involved when they use social media in the classroom.

Higher education professors and instructors face little to no legal liabilities when incorporating social media into the classroom, however.  Their students are adults and they are, therefore, legally released from most institutional and legal liabilities associated with potential problems with the use of social media in the classroom.  K-12 public school teachers are dealing with minors and have to ensure they guard themselves from legal and institutional liabilities associated with the use of social media.

Many K-12 public school administrators see little to no value in the use of social media in the classroom and they discourage or forbid teachers from incorporating social media into instructional activities.  For K-12 school administrators to gain a greater understanding of the value of using social media in the classroom, scholars and teachers who understand the power of using social media in the classroom must do a better job of arming them with research that evinces the true worth of social media in the classroom.  These individuals will need to work to dispel many of the frightening myths about social media that have been promulgated in multifarious media venues.

Teacher education programs should train new teachers on how to incorporate social media into the classroom and establish best practices for implementing social media in the classroom.  When more teacher education programs make training in social media a part of their curriculums, it will help to buttress the perception among more public K-12 administrators that the use of social media in the classroom is a “professional” pedagogical practice.  To be fair to those K-12 administrators who discourage or prohibit teachers from employing social media in the classroom, many teachers who use or have a desire to use social media in the classroom do not have a strong sense of how to use social media in a way that promotes high academic achievement.  Numerous teachers see incorporating social media in the classroom as enabling them to advance higher student engagement, considering social media is wildly popular with young people across the nation and globe.  While elevated student engagement is important, teachers need to know that the specific way(s) they implement social media is effective in leading to expected student learning outcomes.

Higher education professors and instructors have greater flexibility to experiment with social media in the classroom than K-12 public school educators.  If things do not work well with their use of social media, higher education professors and instructors face little to no serious consequences.  Unfortunately, public K-12 teachers do not enjoy the same liberties.  If things do not work well in the classroom with their use of social media, they can receive backlash from students, parents, administrators and the community.

In short, public K-12 teachers have to weigh the risks and rewards in using social media in the classroom.  Many of them contend that the risks outweigh the rewards.  Higher education professors and instructors do not have to devote much attention to the risks of social media in the classroom, so they are experiencing how social media in the classroom has the potential transform the way in which we think about classroom instruction.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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