The social media debate 

Redefining how teachers and students communicate inside and outside of the classroom. Join the discussion.

September 28, 2009

To use social media or not to use social media… that is the question facing many school districts across the country.


  • Should video sharing sites like YouTube be used in the classroom?
  • Should teachers use FaceBook or Twitter to communicate with their students during class and outside of the classroom?
  • How can sites like this improve how we educate our students?


There are many questions with just as many answers circling around this issue. That’s why we’ve opened the discussion up to you: our parents, community members, students and staff. We’d like to get your thoughts on social media and how it should be used when it comes to educating our students. Read the comments below and chime in when you agree, disagree, or have an idea of your own that you’d like us to know about.


But before you read the comments and tell us what you think, here’s a quick social media glossary:


  • Social networking: New way to communicate and share information through a variety of different web services.
  • Twitter: Blog service that provides users with a forum to send and receive short messages, answering the question: What are you doing?
  • FaceBook: Social networking website that allows users to communicate with friends in an open forum, sharing information about themselves in addition to photos, videos, etc.
  • YouTube: Video sharing website that allows members to post, view and share videos


The feedback below is from a wide range of parents, students and teachers from across the District. All were responding to the question: Social media and networking sites get mixed reviews when it comes to allowing them in our schools. Should they be allowed in our schools? And if they were allowed, how should they be used? 

Answer: Yes 

“There should be a teacher password allowing teachers to access these sites. Many times I see a great video on YouTube that has an experiment or demo I would like to use in my class but because it is a blocked site, it is not allowed. Teachers could also then selectively unblock videos or sites depending on particular instruction plans with their passwords. This would give students access but restricted and monitored access.”


-- Other


“Let teachers use them! YouTube has some excellent videos on such a wide variety of subject matter. If we can be trusted to teach the children, can't we be trusted to use good judgment when it comes to what is appropriate to use in class?”


-- Other



“I think that the sites should be used only by the students when the adults/teachers are around.”


-- Student


“The possibilities are endless! Sharing events between schools, using news videos, instructional videos in the sciences, participating in the global communities of ISTE....However it should require an adult password to unlock access.  This allows teachers to review sites/materials in a fashion similar to the use of VHS/DVDs.”              


-- Teacher

Answer: No 

“I don't think that YouTube should be in the schools because there are enough things distracting the kids from what they should be paying attention to. The last thing they need is another excuse to fail.”


-- Parent


“I am against allowing communications through social media. CPS has assigned email addresses to all students and staff. They should communicate via the CPS email system which is monitored. I do know that a lot of teachers do not use their assigned website to post homework and notification which they should but speed is a definite issue. There should be a forum like Blackboard where assignments can be posted, turned in and public discussion can take place. If privacy is needed, they can use the CPS email system. Yes, it can be edgy to use these other social media tools but I can see a lawsuit brewing in the horizon.


-- Parent


I am responding to how teachers communicate with parents. I believe that each teacher or school could use sites like Ning or simple email to keep parents informed and allow us to ask questions of teachers. Posting things on a website just is not enough for communication. And notes are often sent home too late for much discussion. Our principal's newsletter is often weeks later than the date on the cover. Drop off rules were posted to the website on the Saturday before classes started.


-- Parent

Answer: Maybe 

“I have a teenager in high school, and using the public social networking sites would be a major distraction. I monitor his FaceBook page on a regular basis. On the plus side, a large number of students in his school are 'friends' and use this as a method of communication. On a few occasions they ask questions about homework and guidance on class. However on the minus side -- friends also include several dozen students from other schools, neighbors and relatives -- so the conversation is not focused. In addition, students are using the public sites mainly as a release from 'structured school' -- where they can say things they can't say in class. I would be a strong supporter of a private social networking site that is limited to school activities. Last year one of my son's teachers made the class join a smaller social networking site. This site was used to publish and accept homework as well as facilitate out of school discussions about the reading material. Students were required to blog once a week, and critique each other's blogs. It was a great tool.”


-- Parent


“I personally don't see any classroom use for social networking sites beyond their communication tools and First Class has served my students adequately for email, message boards and blogs. Streaming video sites such as YouTube are an entirely different story and I would love to have access to those sites and for my students to have access as well. As far as safeguards go, doesn't YouTube have content filtering similar to Google's Safe Search? I know that when using Google, if my students turn Safe Search off, then their search results are blocked. Some objectionable content will always get through, but that's true with the best filtering including the software we use now.”


-- Teacher


“I use FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, and Linked In. I also use applications from my iPhone (which would be even more helpful in class). This is the toughest call for me. I have mixed feelings.  Though I use them all and I would love to use some of the info in class to connect with students and other teachers/professionals, there is way too much adult-oriented bots that attach themselves to the accounts whether you block them or not (my experience). You can't always control the info you see or what the students would see (even if you taught them safe usage). If there was a way to block unwanted material/video/comments/articles, etc., then I would be all for it!”


-- Teacher


As you can see from just this sampling of feedback gone are the traditional days of handing out homework on a piece of paper or using a textbook to get an idea across. Is social networking the next big thing for education? What do you think?


Share your thoughts with us.