Social media (or SoMe) are network tools that connect people through the Internet and enable the exchange of chats and various media content. They act as tools for the users to generate and share content with each other. The media typically contain a chat function that enables fast and informal communication between users.
Social media are suitable for more informal academic dialogue because this and the immediate feedback from fellow students can be made easily accessible. Social media can therefore be a good launch pad for academic discussion; you can ask the students to share their thoughts, opinions or reactions to academically relevant activities and topics. Most students already use several types of social media, which makes it easy to draw on their experience with these in a teaching context.
Teaching activities using social media increase the students’ opportunities for interaction with their teacher and fellow students in and outside of scheduled teaching sessions.
By creating a group or a hashtag in social media you may cause a course to live on even after an exam; it may be kept alive by the students and their teacher to facilitate continuous academic sparring and the exchange of inspiration in the social medium. Social media may also add a social element to courses where the students rarely meet face to face.
You may use social media in your teaching in many different ways. For instance, browse our list of concrete activities and examples of practice in the right margin of this page, or find inspiration in the following brief examples of more general activities.
Students can answer questions during a lecture by using a specific hashtag or a specific group in a social medium. This enables more students to express their opinion ― including the quiet students. It may also cause more active participation because it becomes visible to everyone who participates actively and who does not.
You as a teacher may ask a question in a social medium regarding the topic/concept/issues of each teaching session; the students must then consider this, possibly including it in their preparation or in reflection exercises on their way the lecture. The discussion can be resumed during lectures, using the social media for questions in sessions, or the discussion can be continued in the social medium after the session.
Students and teachers can share academically interesting and relevant links, articles and recourses in social media. Use the medium to draw attention to academic parallels, e.g. other theories, and online discussions on academic topics. Also encourage the students to use the medium for mutual academic inspiration. In this way, social media can be used as activities between sessions and for the exchange of ideas among students, for instance ideas regarding assignment topics.
Students can ask academic questions in a social medium using a hashtag or a group for the specific class, and you as a teacher may discover misunderstandings or knowledge gaps in the course, which will give you an idea of how your teaching is being received.
Ask your student to follow a certain person, certain groups or hashtags, for instance #dkpol, where current political issues are being explained and discussed. This will enable students to follow current academic discussions and gain inspiration for topical issues for major written assignments.
If you do not know which tools to use for the different activities, or what the differences are between them, you may read more about tools below:
Twitter is a social network and a microblogging tool that enables users to write and read short updates, also referred to as “tweets”. Tweets may contain text, images and hyperlinks, however with a maximum of 280 characters. From your own Twitter profile you can both create and follow different hashtags.
Instagram is a social medium inspired by Polaroid photographs. In other word, it is a medium that focuses on aesthetics and enables users to share photos and videos with each other. In essence, this medium focuses on photographs, not text.
As a teacher you should consider which social medium is best suited for the purposes and activities you wish to use it for in your teaching. Twitter, for instance, may offer an insight into research activities within certain fields through popular hashtags or profiles.
Bear in mind that social media often encourage informal and more general academic communication, whereas a blog may be better format for more in-depth posts and reflections from the students.