Social networking is currently trending, and while specific platforms may come and go, the general concepts of social media, posting, sharing, and liking, do not appear to be going anywhere soon. “Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram are increasingly integrated into daily life, and frequently extend beyond social interactions to serve as common sources by which people obtain information on news, history, politics, etc.” (Sohoni, 2018, p. 1). Students are actively engaging with social media outside of the classroom and teachers can, and should, harness these relevant, real world technologies for educational purposes. Facebook groups and pages can become central hubs for class announcements, reminders, and discussion. Students and teachers can utilize YouTube as a host for video blogs, instructions, and projects. Blogs like Tumblr, WordPress, and Wix can become collaborative forums for sharing content and responses. Students can use Pinterest to find and collect ideas, inspiration, and images.
Social media is fueled by “the satisfaction of spreading ideas, creations, or resources within a growing network of influence” (Burbules, 2016, p. 561) which fundamentally aligns with many of the core principles of education and learning. When incorporated into the physical or virtual classroom, the dynamics of social media provide opportunities for meaningful connections, feedback, participation, and contribution, as well as, diverse encounters (Greenhow & Lewin, 2015). Additionally, using social media as a learning environment can build upon students’ interests to support the development of influential media creation and distribution and digital citizenship skills (Gleason & von Gillern, 2018).
While the potential benefits of social media in education can be far-reaching and meaningful, there are also challenges and causes for concern. Assignment assessments that involves social media can be difficult to measure for quality and technical support may be inadequate if teachers have little training or experience (Sohoni, 2018). Social media has also been known to be a harmful, but effective forum for cyber-bullying, harassment, and “trolling,” especially when users are protected by anonymity (Burbules, 2016). Social media is a valuable, largely influential tool, with the power to uplift and to demean, and must be exercised with care and caution for both the academic and the emotional well-being of students. Proactive and preventative measures, combined with monitored and regulated actions, can establish a healthy, safe space for academic learning and enrichment.
Lastly, just as there are opportunities and challenges for social media in education, the same trains of thought can be applied to churches’ use of social media. Burbules (2016) appropriately asserted that social media is not merely a one-way tool that we use to, but rather, it can influence and change us. As the Body of Christ, the Church is not something that should be shaped by the ways of the earthly world. However, with intentional and conscientious approaches for accountability, churches can and have found social media to be an effective means of growing and supporting their community of followers.
Burbules, N. C., (2016). How we use and are used by social media in education. Educational Theory, 66(4), 551-565. https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1111/edth.12188
Gleason, B. and von Gillern, S. (2018). Digital citizenship with social media: Participatory practices of teaching and learning in secondary education. Educational Technology & Society, 21(1), 200+. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/apps/doc/A524180840/AONE?u=vic_liberty&sid=AONE&xid=f0f56a3e
Greenhow, C. and Lewin, C. (2015). Social media and education: Reconceptualizing the boundaries of formal and informal learning. Learning, Media and Technology, 41(1). https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1080/17439884.2015.1064954
Sohoni, T. (2018). Harnessing the power of social media in the classroom: Challenging students to create content to share on social media sites to improve learning outcomes. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 30(1). https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1080/10511253.2018.1538420