Social media has created a new language that can often cause a rift between adults and kids. Most of us didn’t experience an adolescence filled with apps, notifications, and viral video loops. And most of us haven’t been a student in a classroom where tablets and computers are king.
But this is the world where our kids live, so how do we meet them in the middle? To start, we need to work to understand the new language of social media, encourage student self-regulation around technology, and reflect on how classroom workflow can best be organized so that it provides maximum efficiency and effectivity for everyone.
1. Learn and understand the language of social media.
The landscape is changing constantly, and preferences vary by region and grade level. But the best way to understand the language and the lingo of social media is to listen and to allow tweens and teens to be your core source of information. Speaking the language doesn’t mean that you need to understand every little nuance of social media. Being genuinely intrigued, however, goes a long way. For instance, I use nearly all the apps students tell me they use as well as others that I find out about through my own research. Apps are being updated continually, and, as a point of conversation, I ask students to explain their favorite features and what they like about different apps or websites.
2. Never underestimate the power of attitude and approach.
When talking with teens and tweens about technology and social media, ask open-ended questions without judgment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found out about some new app or issue simply by listening carefully and asking strategic follow-up questions. Those conversations often serve as a segue into something students have seen or experienced online. Sometimes, I’ll ask what their friends or classmates are using and what issues they are seeing online, because students may initially feel more comfortable talking about friends’ behavior than their own.
3. Frame the concept of self-regulation as a win-win.
In my work with students around organization, time management, and overall wellness, I make it all about them. What do they want more time to do in a week? How many more hours of sleep do they want to get? Do they want to be less stressed and overwhelmed about their academics? Understanding what is important for each student gives you an opportunity to talk about daily habits and choices and about the small, incremental changes they can make to get them closer to their own personal version of success. Asking students to reflect on questions like why they want to use social media or asking them to identify their biggest challenges online (and in real life) in relation to their technology and social media use can help them shift their habits and choices and increase personal productivity.
4. Use technology to encourage monotasking.
Social media and technology can provide students (and adults) with some of their biggest distractions, but there are also wonderful tools to encourage compartmentalization. Today’s students live in a world of mini-multitasking, which results in decreased productivity and increased exhaustion. Helping students compartmentalize and monotask, or focus on one task at a time, can increase productivity and decrease stress. I often use the Forest app to block my phone when I’m writing because it helps me to stay focused for a set amount of time. While my phone remains untouched, a digital tree will grow. If I try to use my phone, the tree dies. (It really works.) Many writers use Freedom to block out distractions while they’re working on the computer. The key to any app that encourages compartmentalization is simplicity: It should be easy to use and ideally encourage a single-task focus.
5. Organize workflow consistently in your classroom.
Think about how you promote organization in your class. Are your students required to have a virtual or in-real-life organization system? Do you check it regularly or allow them to take time in class to regroup and reorganize? What simple things can you do to promote organization (and, ultimately, save you time) in your classroom?
In an ideal world, teachers would give students their assignments in class (writing them on the board as well as giving a verbal reminder) and post assignments online. Students benefit most when teachers are able to post the upcoming week’s assignments and exams on the online learning management system by the previous Friday afternoon. That isn’t always possible, but this simple shift encourages students to become more proactive in managing their upcoming week. I also encourage teachers to normalize the use of written planners by creating time and space for students to take out their planners in class and write down their assignments.
This article is adapted from Ana Homayoun’s book, Social Media Wellness. We love this book for its smart and simple strategies for handling social media in the classroom! You can learn more about it here.
Plus, check out our live interview with Ana here: