The Power of Social Media and Education (Pics of Kronborg Castle)



View from Kronborg Castle Window (Copyright Steve Schwarten)


This is going to be a short post, but the information has been bouncing around in my head for a while now.  I am convinced that as teachers we need to push the boundaries of the classroom beyond the walls.  For years I was terrified of interacting with students on social media.  I was afraid that somehow it would come back around  and and bite me.  A few years ago I started posting reminders about homework on twitter, which resulted in a better return in home work completion.  Over time, it grew into me using it to connect with other educators and me posting more information for my students as retweets and my thoughts on current events.  But it wasn’t until recently I began to see the tool as a high powered tool for connection between students and teacher.

Kronborg Castle (Copyright Steve Schwarten)
 Over the holiday break, I spent time in Europe enjoying the sights and flavors of Denmark and Sweden. While there I spent time taking oodles of pictures to share with those I love and those I teach.  I always feel like I need to bring back information to share with those who may never have an opportunity to go where I have been.  The only difference was that this time I have students who follow me on Instagram and twitter.  For the first time I didn’t have to wait to post a picture with a description and some interesting facts.  I could just connect with my students immediately.  When I was looking at the ceiling of St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC before I had to go to the airport I could share that with them.  When I was looking out at the waves from the window of a castle I could take a picture and share it with them.  When I came across a book written by John Green I was able to take a picture and post immediately with a comment about how the Danish people liked him just as much as we do.  We no longer have to wait to talk with people about our adventures.  Now our students can see what we see immediately.  Think for a second of the power the rests within our social network.  Their eyes can see immediately what my eyes can see.  That is deep…

John Green Ad while waiting for the metro. (Copyright Steve Schwarten)
Students today operate in worlds that are separate from their parents and teachers.  For decades people used to complain that we all occupied different generational spaces.  The old could not penetrate the locations of the young as they figured themselves out.  When someone older found their space the youth would scatter.  The result was a sad dismembering of society where each generation distrusted the other and learning between them severed.  

Today we are given a window into what their world looks like through the panes of social media and they are given one into ours.  I make it a priority not to follow students on twitter or other places, but I like to think of my own accounts that some of my students follow as a way for them to peer into my mind and my adventures.  I like seeing historical locations and doing social studies related activities outside of school.  They are fun for me and often I used to think if only I could share the experience with my students.  For the first time ever I can.  

I remember once going out to lunch with a former teacher and while we ordered food he began to lecture the waiter on the origins of the Margarita pizza.  I remember smiling, but also thinking of how I missed learning things with him.  For the first time ever we can continue to educate our students even after they have left our classroom.  They might not stop by every day, but the pull will be there.  I know because on my Instagram and twitter accounts I have students who occasionally post comments or like pictures.  I still feel like I am making a difference for them.  Giving them at least a little piece of my intellect and expanding their horizons through my pictures.  

The Main gate entrance into Kronborg Castle.  (Copyright Steve Schwarten)

I think that social media has revolutionized how we can communicate with one another and the classroom should be no different.  I think some of the nuances might have been replaced or have changed, but if used properly it can be such a powerful tool.  I know not all students will ever follow me or like the things I post, but those few who feel like they want to still be connected should be allowed to.  Those that are afraid of this have no idea how nice it is to post a picture of my classroom and have students send me a message about how much they missed the environment we created together.  

If you have not given social media a try you should.  If done properly the results can be staggering.  Or at least it will make you smile knowing that you can reach a wider audience as you explain the origins of the Margarita Pizza.       

(All pictures are originals taken by Steve Schwarten of the Kronborg Castle and one of a John Green Advertisement.  Please, don't steal them.  I can send you a print if you want.  They also are examples of pictures I shared with my students.)

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