Engaging students in the era of hybrid in-person/online learning can be challenging for educators used to the traditional classroom setting. While building strong teacher-student relationships has proven to increase student achievement, the dynamics are different when students aren’t physically present, leaving educators to look for new ways to connect with their students.
Research has shown that social media can be a valuable educational tool that also helps foster positive student-teacher relationships. In this post, you’ll find a few strategies for using social media to connect with students, engage them in their learning, and foster positive student-teacher relationships.
Use Private Facebook Groups to Create an Online Learning Hub
A dynamic and thriving online learning community can transform students’ school experience. The right digital platform provides a safe space for teachers and students to engage in ongoing written conversations and build relationships.
Private Facebook groups are one great way to utilize social media as the site of your classroom’s online learning community. Elementary teachers may want to focus groups on sharing photos or involving and updating parents. Teachers of children old enough to control their own accounts can also stream lesson videos, post polls or discussion questions, and provide links to relevant content.
Your classroom’s Facebook group is the perfect place to share or pin direct links to helpful learning resources such as videos from other instructors, reading materials, or educational games. Posts including assignment deadlines or test date reminders can be pinned to the top of the group page so students have a readily accessible go-to place for critical dates and information.
Use your private Facebook group as a gallery for showcasing exemplary work or exciting student success stories. A daily or weekly selection of classroom highlights shows students, and their parents, that you’re proud of their accomplishments and value their hard work. Additionally, these acknowledgments build relationships and get students more engaged in their learning process.
Invite-only Facebook groups don’t require sending friend requests. Students and parents or guardians can only receive initial access with a direct link to the group sent via email, keeping the group private to only those individuals you approve as part of your classroom community. In addition to choosing “Private” over “Public,” you’ll want to “Hide Group” with settings set to “Hidden” to ensure only members can find it if searching for your group on Facebook. Even though the group is private and hidden, not every parent may want their child photographed for posts in the group. Most parents likely won’t mind, but when dealing with any matters of privacy it’s important to address and have the permission of parents or guardians.
Communicate Classroom Announcements and Invite Interactive Participation with Twitter
Like a private Facebook group, a classroom-dedicated Twitter account is helpful for broadcasting important information, classroom updates, or other reminders. Moreover, Twitter hashtags provide convenient live and in-the-moment capabilities for student participation. For example, students too shy to speak up can tweet a question to their teacher mid-lecture and tag it with your class hashtag. Search for all tweets containing your hashtag, then keep that live feed projected on the screen as an ongoing forum for questions, comments, and related information.
Making Twitter polls or having students respond using your class hashtag are other ways you can generate class feedback. This approach helps you get a sense of how well students understand new material and encourages students to be clear and concise in their tweet-length written responses.
Twitter also can enable teachers to reach students and parents directly and vice versa, helping to build two-way communication and improve student-teacher and parent-teacher relationships. Students and parents in your audience will also have a built-in method for following up with any questions for teachers or the larger community and discussing ongoing developments.
Twitter and UNESCO’s Teaching and Learning with Twitter resource gives a great and thorough overview of the platform, including hashtags, learning activities, and best practices for digital etiquette and media and information literacy.
Assign Photo or Video Essays, Presentations, and Projects
Show your students you’re tuned in to the sites and online social destinations important to them by incorporating social media into an assignment. Rather than having students use PowerPoint to create a traditional slideshow presentation, task them with curating a photo or video essay posted privately on social media.
Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook albums are great options for photo essays, while YouTube and TikTok are great video mediums. For either format or a mix of both, a Twitter thread or Snapchat series can guide readers through a story, present a thesis statement, or make a persuasive argument.
Instagram in particular is heavily focused on sharing visual images, and educators have discovered great ways to use Instagram as a teaching and research tool. Hashtags can be used there, too, to organize posts associated with your classroom’s learning.
On a class field trip to a museum or nature center, for example, students could be assigned to look for and document certain information on or examples of tree, bird, and insect species. Upon returning to the classroom, a feed of all posts containing your class’s hashtag serves as a virtual photo album of the experience.
Pinterest prioritizes photo sharing and collecting images or other visual resources together by topic, and contains a wealth of student project examples, lesson suggestions, and more helpful ideas for teachers.
Related resources are hosted on a digital “board” that helps visually organize and present the materials. For example, a history teacher’s Pinterest board on the Civil War could include maps of battles and strategic gains, illustrations of key players, and a pinned timeline of the most critical war developments.
Video-centric YouTube doesn’t have a traditional “feed” of communications and is much less focused on sharing messages while prioritizing the creation, posting, and sharing of videos. However, it’s easy to find relevant videos and entire channels dedicated to educational content that can enhance your daily lessons on YouTube.
Additionally, teachers can upload their own videos of classroom lectures, demonstrations, or experiments. Privacy settings can be adjusted to keep videos only accessible to students via a private link, and you can utilize video comment sections to host students’ observations, reactions, and class-wide discussions.
YouTube’s dedicated Teachers channel includes hundreds of playlists of educational videos, as well as tips and tricks for bringing YouTube into the classroom. The platform’s power and possibilities are nearly limitless, including opportunities for students to explore the world in virtual reality.
Discover Relationship-Building Activities with Avanti
Social media presents exciting and innovative possibilities for engaged learning and strengthening teacher-student relationships. Beyond students’ academic careers, it can help them find jobs, develop new skills, and network with potential employers.
Social media also provides an innovative avenue for connecting with students outside the classic classroom paradigm, but many other methods also exist for online communication and strengthening relationships. While no individual social media platform can or should replace existing communication outlets and methods for you to reach students and their parents, they are effective at amplifying messaging and serving as additional sources for personal connections and enhancing relationships.
Investing the time and effort to build genuine, meaningful relationships leads to a better learning experience for all. Discover more insight into building relationships with students by signing up for a seven-day complimentary trial of Avanti. Our exclusive resource library includes hundreds of helpful on-demand videos and resources with proven strategies on relevant topics such as relationship building, student engagement, classroom management, and more.