Social media: a new world for teachers to discover to teach today’s students

Picture by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The covid-19 pandemic and the generalisation of online classes have put educators’ digital skills to the test. In many cases, they realised that they were not prepared for such a shift. The problem was either a lack of material, a lack of skills, or even both. In the first scenario, the resolution is straightforward: invest in new material and platforms. In the second scenario, solutions are more complicated and time-consuming to implement, as they require training of a large range of people and some will to improve from the key players.

Within the wide range of digital skills, one topic stands out: social media. While in 2021, 84% of EU citizens aged 16 to 24 participated in social networks, the percentage drops to 59% when EU citizens from 25 to 64 are considered and to 39% when it is EU citizens from 55 to 64 (Eurostat). This shows a difference of 25 percentage points between the proportions of youth and adults engaged in social media activities. In 2019, Eurostat also highlighted that the EU average for adults possessing ‘above basic’ digital skills was just 31%. It is easy to conclude that teachers’ readiness is significantly lagging behind their students when it comes to social media.

What can be hard is finding the correct and relevant information. There are plenty of online articles that claim to explain what social media can bring to teaching and how to use them in class. However, there are fewer that are really useful and complete. Finding specific content related to a particular school notion can also be complicated when you are not acquainted with social media. It can variate according to the country too: some of them have less developed educational content creation on social media in their own language. Therefore, the lack of original and usable content or knowledge and examples to create some new content can discourage teachers to use social media.

Nevertheless, these platforms offer a chance to shift towards a more digitised education sector without engaging high costs. They are free, customisable and accessible. Training teachers to use them safely and efficiently might help to close the observable generational digital divide. Considering students’ readiness, it could also be a way to engage them in their education and play a role in teachers’ lifelong learning experience.

What can be interesting for teachers to understand is the use of social media by students. We can largely say that the use of students’ social media for studying and learning curricula-related notions has also increased. As young people are more likely to be interested and be handy with social media, they may be more confident to learn through these platforms. When you already know how to search for specific content, and the subtilities of trends over social media, it may be way easier to consume learning content that fits you and your interests.