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Five Ways to Teach Social Media Offline

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this tip from 'Tween Crayons and Curfews: Tips for Middle School Teachers, by Heather Wolpert-Gawron. This article provides teachers with five ways they can teach social media skills without going online or accessing a computer.

Let’s face it: you may not have the computers or the district approval to allow online resources to be used in your classroom. In fact, some of us are not yet comfortable with our own interactions in the online pool, much less comfortable with teaching others to swim. But that doesn’t make social media any less important to teach.

In fact, I would recommend teaching social media offline before even jumping into an online network with your students. It allows you to model the standard you need to see in their entries and level of participation. It will also help to relieve any fear you might have of jumping in, because it’s all done in the classroom using the supplies and tools that you would normally use to teach collaborative work.

Despite your possible discomfort, lack of equipment, or district short-sightedness, it is still your job to prepare these students for their future; and communicating and collaborating online using social media is here to stay. Maybe it will look different 10 years from now, but you need to be able to give your students the tools they will need to conduct themselves online. You need to be their voice of maturity, guiding them to make good decisions.

So dip your toe into the social media pool, and reap the benefits of developing engaging lessons by recreating simulations of online environments. This gives you the opportunity to begin speaking the language of responsible social media interaction, even if you lack the equipment. All it takes is a little offline role-playing of online skills.

Here are just some examples:

  1. Offline Blogging—Set up a poster of an article for each table group. Depending on what subject you teach, the article can reflect any content area. Have the students use sticky notes, stuck together in a chain, one right after the other, commenting on either the article itself or the previous student’s comment.
  2. Use the Current Copyright Law for Reading Comprehension—Rather than having the students go online to read the copyright law, print it out and develop multiple-choice questions for them to answer, as they would on a standardized test. This becomes test prep on informational text as well as a lesson on Internet ethics.
  3. Tweeting Core Knowledge—Create a chart of growing “tweets” (140 characters only) that reflect that day’s lesson. It can be a theme of a short story, dialogue tweets between characters, a chronological list of a particular timeline in history, or attempts at an equation. It’s not that this hasn’t been done before, but by calling it a Twitter feed, it adds a layer of 21st-century language to everyday lessons.
  4. Texting as Note Taking—OK, I get a lot of flak about this, but I think texting is just fine sometimes. In fact, just as is the case with much of technology, we’ve seen it before. Not so long ago, texting was called shorthand; so let kids create texts for core knowledge note taking. Let them listen to you and others and document what they’ve heard in texting language. Let them translate a history chapter into text, or switch the activity around and prep a paragraph of a concept using texting language and have them translate it into academic, formal vocabulary. There’s a place for everything.
  5. Creating an Offline Wiki—Much like the offline blog, you can also re-create some of the benefits of an online wiki with supplies as simple as a poster and crayons. The small group must, let’s say, write an essay or create a mathematical equation. For each change to the original text, the person must indicate his/her participation by using a unique color to visually indicate the revision. Students can cross out, whiteout and write over, add, etc; in the end, the multicolored final draft or agreed-upon answer will reflect the collaboration of multiple students.

If someone told me that social media tools were created by tweens, I would totally believe them. As we all know, the creators of Facebook itself were mere college students at the time of its inception, and the tools themselves are in still their infancy. However, just as with any tool, the ability to use it alone does not guarantee its proper use. So it is with social media. In fact, because of education’s silence on the subject, the one guarantee is that our students do not know how to use it appropriately. However, use it they do, and education must become a voice in the standard of its use. There is a conversation in the bandwidth that surrounds us, and we must be a part of it.


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