The world connects, shares, laughs, and learns on social media. Why shouldn't educators be a part of the conversation? Some are, but more could benefit. When leveraged correctly, several popular social media platforms can be wonderful educational tools for enhancing student engagement and performance, and can even be used for establishing program credibility and thought leadership for education professionals. Learn how two of the most well-known social media platforms can help you augment student outcomes, and how to apply these tools in your everyday work.

Optimize Student Engagement with Pinterest

Pinterest was initially developed to showcase collections. Formatted in a gallery-style interface, Pinterest is a wonderful tool for visual learners. Pinterest is comprised of boards, pins, and followers. As a user, you can set up a themed board; popular Pinterest themes include food and drink, home decor, fashion, and design.

Teachers can even plan curriculums and activities by using Pinterest boards. Boards can include information for courses, practical ideas, resources, and images. For example, you can use a Pinterest board for each of your courses, and even for individual lessons. Students can share resources and provide feedback as well.

Once you've added the app to your internet browser, you'll be able to "pin' websites and images to your Pinterest boards, essentially aggregating an online, interactive scrapbook. So instead of saving a bunch of bookmarks of interesting websites for your classes, try using a Pinterest board to gather information and resources, and stay organized.

By using Pinterest for class, you're able to broaden student perspectives by providing enriching, up-to-date content. After introducing a new concept, or assigning a project, you can share all of the resources students will need right on a Pinterest board, for easy, instant access.

You can even share practical information for students to use beyond what's needed for a diploma or degree by including tips for student success, job postings, creating professional portfolios, writing resumes, and other career guidance.

Miles beyond an online textbook, your Pinterest account can be a living, collaborative space for you, your students, and your colleagues to share and learn. Once you're able to collect and curate content for your boards, you'll be able to collaborate with other academic professionals in your field from outside of your organization. You can begin to position your collection of boards to establish thought leadership as an individual, or as an organization in your field.

The platform can be used privately for staying organized for your own purposes, or publically-- to use as a classroom or professional tool. Though Pinterest can be time consuming, and you will need to get all of your students on board to be active Pinterest users, the possibilities as an education professional on Pinterest are really limitless.

Leveraging Facebook Groups to Build Community

Facebook can be a great way to build rapport with students. Your Facebook group can be an equivalent of a more informal setting for teachers and students to convene, like at a coffee house or office hours. This is a great option for online schools to build community without a brick and mortar setting. Contributors can pose questions, comments, concerns, ideas, and motivational content to the group.

Your Facebook group will need to be closed, otherwise anyone can join. In order to manage incoming requests to join your group you'll need to vet each pending group member. Here are some helpful strategies for vetting requests:

  • When reviewing requests, you can see how long a user has been on Facebook; these durations are 1+ year, 1+ month, >1month.
  • You can see how many groups a user is a member of, and who invited them.
  • You can see if the user has friends who are already in the group.
  • You can also click on the user's profile to see if they have any public facing content such as profile pictures or posts.
  • Keep an eye out for spam or malicious red flags such as excessive links or vague names.
  • Additionally, sometimes a group member can get hacked, or a spammer/catfisher can carefully craft a profile.

Keep an eye out. It is important to regularly manage your Facebook group for odd behaviors.

In terms of etiquette, it is important that student group members know the parameters of the discussion so they don't flood the group with spam or attack other members. If the group goes too off-topic, the purpose could become diluted.

Make sure you create a Facebook group with a specific and scalable purpose. A group for an individual class will not be scalable, but rather transcriptional, and people will abandon the group later. An academic program's group or a club's group creates a more long term membership.

To connect with your audience, you need to speak their language. If you use way too much jargon you could turn off a group member. Definitely welcome humor and personality, but do not pander by blatantly posting memes just because something is "trending;" but if something fits seamlessly into your conversations with students, add them in.  If you carefully balance a language that fits your students' lifestyle, your group members will feel like this is their place.  

Equally as important is sharing student success. As with everywhere on the Internet, people love to see visuals of other people. Celebrate big wins by posting shoutouts and encourage students to share their proudest moments. Encourage students to share photos holding their diplomas, or at their place of work. Highlight student achievements so students can feel recognized and appreciated for their hard work.

A positive Facebook group can also be a fantastic place to drum up testimonials or act a proof point for your program or school for leads. When students feel supported in a positive community, then they will feel empowered to offer support back to other students.

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