I sat in a taxi in Sydney last year, on my way to indulge in another large helping of steamed dumplings in my quest to try all of the top eight dumpling restaurants Sydney has to offer (as voted by the website Concrete Playground). The taxi driver was a middle-aged gentleman of Greek origin. I asked him about his opinion of Uber. Did he hate them? Had business slowed since their inclusion into the market? He told me to open his glove box. To my surprise, within the glovebox was his Uber identification tag. He had a foot in each camp! He had accepted that Uber was here to stay and slumping in his seat and complaining about it was not going to get his bills paid. To cut a long story short, the main learning I took away from this interaction is that we can choose to take one of two options. Embrace the trends or fight the trends.
This train of thought is something I have always sort of followed, but never really embraced. The taxi driver had inspired me to not only embrace the trends, but to accelerate them; make them my own and use them to my advantage in an educational setting. Things like the bottle flip, dabbing, fidget spinners, memes and so on have been banned in some schools, whereas I see them as an opportunity to teach projectile motion, angles of a triangle, reflection or a relevant way to bring up and discuss social inequity, assumptions and bias.
An example of an educator who is not embracing trends (used with permission from Mr Jones online from Teachers pay teachers).
This is where social media comes in. Do we embrace it, or do we fight it?
For me, it is a no brainer. After meeting this motivational taxi/Uber driver, I set myself the goal to use social media as a means for assessment, both in a formative and summative manner.
These are some of the success stories.
This was an important one for allowing me to check the students’ understanding of the content. It was an excellent way to transition the move from the individual to the group space of the flipped classroom.
I instructed the students to use Snapchat for this. I asked them to summarise or take key points from a video, complete a two truths one lie, do a three level reading guide on a text or any sort of activity where they needed to think about and exhibit an understanding of the content. Once they had created a video using Snapchat, they were to save it to their camera roll and then post it onto our class Facebook page. The buy-in from students was excellent. Feedback from the class showed that they did not mind putting themselves out there for others to see when there was a fun element to it, when they could use a filter to disguise their faces and their voices, and when they could quickly check any notifications they had.
Some examples of students who have used Snapchat filters to record their responses (used with permission from the students).
Facebook obviously allows you to post videos and other content to your classroom group. I will often put up a video or a link to an article and ask the students to leave a comment which shows their understanding. This allows the students to learn from each other, especially if you have the students in some sort of ability grouping. Students who are lower ability might only need to make a literal statement directly from the text or video, whereas someone of a higher ability may be asked to write a comment from a much more critical lens.
Going ‘live’ and the new ‘watch party’ feature on Facebook have opened up other avenues of viewing content as a class and could prove to be very useful in the future. Colleagues of mine have set up a Facebook chat for homework where students have had to meet online at a certain time and talk about a specific topic. Although this was optional, it had excellent buy-in from the students and resulted in some valuable learning.
Many sportsmen and sportswomen are setting up athlete Facebook pages. Even people who have only been going to the gym for a week or two are setting up fitness-based Instagram and Facebook pages too.
This made me think about how I could use the same format for my students. Being a PE teacher who is teaching contextualised courses that are based around improving a student’s own ability in a sport, it was easy to follow the athlete page model. Students had to create a profile using their school email address as their login. They could make it a page or group depending on whether or not they wanted to keep it private. They could also choose not to make it public or not to publish it at all. This worked particularly well for an assessment where the students had to reflect on their participation in an activity and discuss the factors involved. Typically, they would have done this in a diary-type format, but Facebook allowed them to post their response immediately and also gave them the option of adding in video and photos as evidence. I have seen the same standards being assessed in a similar way on Instagram. Any sort of assessment that requires a portfolio of evidence could be used here.
An example of a post from a student’s athlete page. It is a reflection of her use of interpersonal skills throughout a lesson.
Some of my colleagues from the English department followed suit and allowed their students to set up a Facebook page on which they critiqued the books they were reading and completed reading responses.
I have also seen public pages created by students which contain information about a set topic. The page itself is the assessment and the student needs to have a certain number of resources, posts and so on. Making a page designed to create change in a community is a possibility for a number of health-based topics.
These are just a couple of ways that you can use social media to enhance your classroom practice.
At the end of the day, student buy-in is a very important part of being successful on a day-to-day basis. Using tools, techniques and technology that students are familiar and comfortable with can be a big positive.
When a new trend comes along, think about how you might be able to use it to your advantage and do not be scared of it. Go with the trends and do not concern yourself with what cannot be controlled. Embrace the trends and make them your own!