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Is social media reviving or killing our classrooms?

Matt Kapko | Sept. 10, 2014
Social media can wreak havoc when students become distracted in the middle of class. Some educators have gone so far as to ban social media in the classroom, but others says that learning to control social media is part of the learning process and the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Virtually Impossible to Police
"Now only the most disciplined and focused students can focus on the task at hand, and not get lost in the mindless ravines of Instagram and Facebook. In that way, social media may be a great tool for separating the men from the boys," Durvasula adds. "It is all but impossible to police unless I put a mirror in the back of the room, and now I as the faculty member am distracted playing policewoman instead of focusing on the matter at hand - our curriculum."

Durvasula says she plans to ban the use of laptops and other mobile devices in her classroom because she's found that most of her students lack the discipline or the intellect to manage having such a distracting tool in front of them. "I have never had a social media trolling student in one of my classes perform better than average, which speaks volumes," she adds.

The challenges presented by social media in the classroom are even more difficult for those teaching in the lower grades. Gail Leicht, an eighth grade language arts teacher in New Jersey, says social media and more specifically the obsession with the self indirectly makes it more difficult for her to connect with her students.

"Eight years ago, when I started teaching, I could make a social reference and my students would get it," Leicht writes in response to questions from "But now, because kids are only interested in their small circle and anything that constantly reinforces what they already know and validates their own existences, they lack any sophistication or know-how or just basic awareness of the immediate and not-so-immediate world around them."

Reinforcing Students' Obsession with Self
Leicht says her students no longer relate when she references Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or Bruce Springsteen. "I used to try to mention current events or make social references by way of examples or as a way to connect with the kids. Now it's very difficult to find any topics on which I can do that," she adds.

Scott Silverman, associate director of student affairs at University of California, Riverside, says there are four primary cons that arise from the use of social media in the classroom: distraction, academic dishonesty (or cheating), discerning fact from fiction and cyberbullying.

"I think that the cons can be effectively managed if the engagement strategies the teachers employ for social media use are well-thought-out," he writes. "A teacher could have his or her class contribute to a wiki study guide for the upcoming exam, or students can use social media to tweet with others and learn more about a current event."


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