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June 30th marks social media day, so let’s take a moment to reflect on the powerful impact social media can have on the lives of students and teachers. While being conscious of the negative effects social media can have if not used carefully (cyberbullying, spreading misinformation, invasion of privacy), it can also have widespread positive effects. As a social media manager for a K-12 educational company, I have the privilege of seeing all the inspired work that educators, parents, and students post and share on social media on a daily basis. I’m often asked: “What’s the best way to use social media in an educational context?” My answers have varied over the years but most recently I’ve come to simplify it with a single one-sentence response:

Social media is a powerful tool, use it to connect and be creative, but use it wisely.

First and foremost, I believe it’s important for teachers and parents to educate themselves about the dangers of social media, and then to prepare their students and children to avoid these dangers, including addiction, bullying, predators, and scams. Just as an adult would never hand over car keys to a child without first training them in the rules of the road and how to stay safe and keep others safe, adults need to teach children about how to use the internet responsibly, including how to determine if they are in an unsafe virtual environment, who and who not to share information with online, how to behave respectfully and as part of the online community, and when to ask for help.

Use it Wisely

Despite these challenges, social media has become an intrinsic part of our everyday life. It has the ability to connect us with people and ideas from across the globe in an instant and when the pandemic hit, its utility gained even more prominence than ever before. Educators from around the world could suddenly reach out and offer advice on the best distance learning tools, virtual field trips, and provide comfort and support to each other. But during this time, we’ve also endured its negative effects, with its power to distract us for endless hours, making us passive consumers of information. Thus, I often stress that it’s important to be conscious of your time spent on social media and to use it wisely.

Balance Creating vs Consuming

One of my favorite uses of social media continues to be its power as a medium for sharing original creative ideas. During this pandemic, I’ve seen incredible literacy, science, social studies, music, and math projects posted by both teachers and students alike. I often like to point out the important distinction between creating something new versus consuming information. While I believe it’s important to research and learn new things and be aware of important news, it’s equally important to ensure that you take that information and contribute your own ideas and unique creations into the world. I believe everyone has the potential to change the world for the better and social media is an incredible tool to help amplify your own ideas and creations. 

Reflect on #SocialMediaDay

So do the benefits of using social media outweigh the drawbacks? I believe the jury is still out on that question but if we find ways to intelligently navigate social media and recognize it simply as a powerful tool to enhance our connections and creativity, then we are headed in the right direction.

About the author: A digital marketing expert with over 20 years of experience in the field of Social Media and PPC advertising, Walter Rodriguez is the Manager for Social Media at Savvas Learning Company and Editor-in-Chief of the Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog.  A graduate of the Tufts University/New England Conservatory dual-degree program, Walter went on to earn his Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications from Emerson College. His work across the K-12 education industry centers around empowering and inspiring teachers and students with tools and resources to help them build empathy, confidence, and a more equitable society.  

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Walter Rodriguez

Walter Rodriguez

Manager, Social Media Marketing

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.