How using social media can make literacy and numeracy lessons more engaging

As a Skills for Life consultant, I have been holding workshops which promote the use of social media in supporting the development of literacy and numeracy skills.  Most young people live their lives through social media, so introducing tools that they enjoy using and are familiar with makes SFL delivery more engaging and enjoyable.   I frequently hear from trainers and teachers who proudly announce ‘I don’t have a mobile/I have never tweeted/my students don’t have access to a computer – ever!’ and I see a familiarity with my own learning experience, when teachers told me they didn’t own a television set or disparaged my choice of newspaper. I wasn’t impressed. The gap between the teacher and student only widened.

The internet and social media provide rich opportunities for research and communication both locally and worldwide, opportunities to develop critical thinking, to ‘flip the classroom’ and to engage learners by promoting access to relevant and interesting material through which they might develop skills in literacy and numeracy

social-media-419944_640Are blanket bans on internet access or social media sites really useful?

Students need to understand how to use social media in a safe manner; classroom discussion on what the risks are and how potential risks can be identified and reported is relevant and useful in everyday life. 

Using social media to teach literacy and numeracy can:

  • Promote independent decoding – the choice of material is vast but a competent teacher can guide a learner towards relevant sites
  • Create opportunities for independent construction of written text within a naturally-occurring process
  • Help learners to select the maths and information to model a situation
  • Assist with the communication and interpretation of the results of analysis

Examples from my workshop include:

Using Pinterest to collect images for group/individual discussion of a theme, a popular collection has been that of tattoos featuring words and examples of graffiti which can be discussed in class.

1024px-Pinterest_logoThe creation of a personal/group website within which to collect course materials, create links and blog advice to potential students.  You could consider TumblrWordPress or Padlet for this.  Although there are a number of different apps available, these are my preference, due to their short learning curve.

Group development of short maths videos uploaded on to Vine, (a video sharing app) which can be used to help reinforce understanding of mathematical processes.  Short videos can be easily created on an iPad using apps such as ShowMe or Educreations or free screen capture software such as Camstudio or VCRec.  

VCRecDon’t worry about not being an expert in using Social Media, you don’t have to be, the students already know how to use these sites, you just have to facilitate its use and ensure that they keep their post inoffensive and respectful. You might want to consider working with the students to create a class code of practice for using social media.

I recommend turning the Scheme of Work into a practical action plan, ban the worksheet and identify as many opportunities as possible for promoting critical thinking. Only by experiencing wider learning opportunities will learners develop the skills to successfully achieve their potential.

Gillian Macdonald
Skills for Life and Teacher Training Consultant

See also: eSafety is it as important as Road Safety?
Five Steps to Online Delivery
I haven’t got time to use technology
Professional development for FE & Skills Practitioners
Days of Staff Development, are they effective?

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