Social Media in the Classroom – Part 1

Welcome to this multi-part series focusing on Social Media in the classroom. Throughout these posts on the education blog Teach Amazing, you’ll learn how to engage your students in the social media driven world in which they live. Since social media is such a huge category of web 2.0, this course will focus on social networks and microblogging. Let’s discover how to create safe environments for your students, put them into action with fun, engaging lessons and learn assessment strategies for all of your social media lessons.

Create safe, school-centered social networks

Social media in the classroom, especially social networks for your students, can be a very powerful learning tool. Students love to use these tools because it is such a large part of the modern student’s life. Let’s take a look at how to create a social network for your classroom or school in order to provide an online learning platform.

Before creating any online environment for your students, be sure to consult with your school administration and check out your technology use policy.

Private networks

Social Media in the ClassroomYour school may require any school-sponsored social networks to be completely private and hosted on school district servers. That way, student identities can be protected and content can be screened. Keep in mind creating a locked down private social network has many safety advantages, however it takes some technology prowess to install the packages.

Here are a few products to look at when considering a private social network:

  • Oxwall
    A completely open source community building package, Oxwall contains numerous plugins to customize your site. It is built on a PHP/MySQL platform and can be up in running quickly. Check out the demo site to discover all the features.
  • Elgg
    This is definitely one of the best free community building tools. It is used by numerous schools, universities and organizations. Elgg is also built with PHP and can be highly customized. Take a look at their demo site.
  • Xoops
    Xoops is actually a website content management system, CMS, however it can be easily changed into a social network by installing the Yogurt module.

Hosted networks

Setting up a social network on your school servers may prove to be a challenge. Have no fear, many other options exist. If you want a no-hassle social network that is ready to go immediately, sign up for a free account with your choice of many great options. These websites hot all of the software; you just sign up and enjoy.

Many free social networks include advertisements. Make sure you try out your network and discern if the ads are appropriate for your students.

Let’s take a look at some of your best bets for creating a classroom social network.

  • Wall.fm
    This is the hosted version of Oxwall and it’s completely free. That means you can sign up and create your community right away. Wall.fm contains privacy tools so you can keep student content and information private.
  • BigTent
    BigTent has loads of features, looks great and is free. It’s a members only site so no one outside your network will have access. It includes nice tools such as polls, calendars and forums.
  • Grouply
    Another excellent free social network website, Grouply is built for communication. It may not have all of the social networking features of the previous two sites but it works great for student forums.
  • Spruz
    Spruz is one of the biggest online community websites. It’s free unless you start using a lot of bandwidth or need more features. You get lots of features and a really nice looking site.

 

Which option is the best for your classroom? If you get the go-ahead to create a social network and time and money are short, try Wall.fm or BigTent to start with. They have tons of features and are easy to use.

What are your suggestions for social media in the classroom? Please post a comment below and thanks for reading the education blog Teach Amazing!

 

Mark Brumley Mark Brumley (112 Posts)

Mark Brumley is an educational technology leader, presenter and founder of Teach Amazing, who has lived and worked around the globe in his commitment to provide authentic learning experiences to enhance the education of 21st Century learners.


1 Comment

Justin Ferriman 13-04-2013, 16:13

Great mini serie – even when read backwards ;-)
I fully agree with the flipped classroom concept – it enables students to let the content mature and reflect more deeply on the material. It is exciting to see social media and technology becoming the norm rather than the exception. Many of our clients use small scale LMSs for classroom purposes – making the flipped classroom model even more accessible!

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