Social Media &

Classroom Dynamics


The Great Shift

It is a time of great change in the world of education.   While at one time the teacher stood at the head of the class, the unquestioned expert, now there are many voices in the classroom fighting to be heard and it only takes a mobile device to hear them.  This has caused both consternation and outright anger among educators across the world as their domain has been infiltrated by countless silent voices waiting on a blinking screen.  

The key to navigating this shift successfully requires a different mindset for the educator, a role as a coordinator of information, a guide through the wily jungle of the internet.  As the old stones crumble and the new digital world emerges, teachers need to adapt their methods and find a way to use this vast portal of information to their benefit while teaching both digital literacy and discernment.  The key to much of this  is held in the successful incorporation of social media in the classroom setting.

“The children I am teaching have grown up with the internet their entire lives.  My students have iPads and other digital tools and for me to ask them to come into my classroom and power down it would make school seem like a different place that was not in touch with what their real lives were like”. 

Kathy Cassidy, Teacher, Saskatchewan (tvoparents, 2013)

Figure 1 This figure illustrates the difference between people who have grown up with digital tool and those who have learned to use them over time (Reigel, 2018)

Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives

While the majority of educators are digital immigrants, it is worth considering that the majority of students are digital natives.  From their inception, our students have been part of a culture which may seem foreign to those of us who seek to educate them.  While we may see social media as a distraction, they see it as an ever streaming river of knowledge.  They have grown up with access to information in the palm of their hand and have become, out of need or curiosity, self-directed learners.  Recognizing this is the first step to bridging the divide.

Where are the students?

An old adage states that in order to effectively teach, you need to meet people where they are and lead them from that point of origin.  But where are our students in this newly lit digital world and how do we reach them?  Research done by Asurion has shown that the average person checks their phone 95 times a day.  That is once every 10 minutes.  This is up 20% from a similar survey conducted by Asurion two years ago which indicates this is a growing trend. (Asurion, 2019) What does this mean?  We have found our audience.  We need to forge digital pathways to reach our students where they reside and one of the clearest roads by which to reach them is through social media.

The Power of Social Media

Many may understandably ask if this a reliable way to translate new information?  Will it really evoke a growth or a change in comprehension?  Just how receptive are people when looking at social media?  Studies have shown that 29% of young men said they had actually changed their mind about something due to social media. (Bialik, 2020) So, it is powerful indeed. Let that number sink in a little bit.  Because this raises a new and valid concern.  What will happen if we do not teach students the digital literacy skills necessary to navigate with discernment through this new digital world?  Three out of each ten young men….

Figure 2   Displayed is the condensed version of the results of a survey taken to determine the percentage of people whose admitted ther opinions were changed by social media. (Bialik, 2020)

The Cultural Impact of Social Media & The Role of the Educator

A culture is woven by its people; their mores, values and beliefs define it.  With both parents working, many students come home to an empty house but a diversion in their pocket.   Social media may have untold power as its omnipresence begins to carve out a new culture and it may not be in sync with the values which have been held for millennia.  It is imperative that our education system catch up to the technological curve and begin to effectively teach digital literacy and discernment and incorporate positive forms of networking with social media. Our very culture may be at stake and teachers may be the only ones primed to stop it.


What does Social Media Offer Students?

Builds Necessary Digital Literacy

social media skills as job requirements

In his Ted Talks video, Professor William J. Ward stresses that Digital Literacy, especially skills in Social Media are necessary job skills.  Employers are not only checking social media to be informed about potential candidates, but they are also expecting employees to be savvy with Social Media so their posts can be utilized to promote the corporate brand. (TEDxTalks, 2013)

Increased Student Engagement

Builds community & Raises GPA

Research by Harvard professor Reynold Junco & Charles Elavsky at Masaryk University has shown that students, who utilized a voluntary class Twitter Group with their classmates, throughout a semester course had a much higher level of engagement, and a higher GPA than students who chose not to utilize the social media. (Junco, Elavsky, & Heiberger, 2012)

Enhances Classroom Community

Builds meaningful connections

Social Media allows students different ways to collaborate with each other, lets quieter voices be heard, and allows different talents be showcased.   Teachers can invite new voices into the classroom, often partner with other classes in other parts of the world.  Kathy Cassidy, a primary school teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, uses blogs and Twitter with students in grades one and two and also partners her class with a class in Australia through Social networking. (tvoparents, 2013)



Digital Literacy Skills are Necessary for Discernment


“We have people who have in front of them extraordinary volumes of information. We have to help them learn how to discern, how to judge, how to be able to use their existing knowledge, their vindicated knowledge, to test what is being given to them by different sources.” (Richards, 2019)

True Education Allows and Encourages Response

“If we want to engage people, if we want to actually impact people and change minds and change hearts, we actually have to allow people to question us—allow people to dialogue with what we’re saying.

We have to listen to people, engage with them empathetically, understand what their concerns are—and social media allows us to do that.” (Richards, 2019)

Educators need to Adapt Methodology

“I can be teaching in class and realize that the kids I’m teaching are, with their tablets, looking at the materials on which I am basing my lesson. I can either feel threatened by that, or I can change my method and embrace the fact that they can directly access primary sources and earlier materials. I would hope that the whole methodology for teacher training is changing so that people are learning how to be guides and mentors and accompany people into the digital world, rather than to be gatekeepers.” (Richards, 2019)

Relax, it's Not Uncharted Territory

A Shift in Learning Styles

Many educators of younger students think that teaching with digital tools, especially Social Media will cause an overhaul of our entire educational system. Perhaps instead, it is merely a shift to a different educational model. Consider that modern students, who have had vast amounts of knowledge at their fingertips their whole lives, have become self-motivated learners and now learn, for the most part, as adults do, following the Andragogy teaching model.  Digital tools and social media serve to enhance this teaching model . (Geng, Law, & Niu, 2019)



Figure 3 This figure shows the difference between pedogogy, the traditional aspproach to classroom learning, versus andragogy, the adult approach to learning which digitally native students are migrating towards.