Guest Post By: Brian Jenkins

Some experts believe the classroom should reflect the world kids live in today. They believe that by incorporating highly popular social media websites into the coursework, kids will enjoy the learning process and learn more. Because technology has become such an integral part of the lives of today's students, kids demand similar stimulation in the classroom. A recent Pew Research Center report shows that 73% of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 use social networking, which is up from 55% four years ago. Some teachers suggest calling it "academic networking" instead of social networking as a means to orient it more towards the classroom.

 Some teachers use social media as a teaching tool to allow students to learn from experts from around the world. By using social media this way in the classroom, students can connect with other cultures and become more aware of the world.

 Digital Citizenship

 Christopher Lehmann, principal of Science Leadership Academy, a Philadelphia charter school, stated, "I think it is incumbent upon schools to teach smart digital citizenship." He went on to say, "One way to model digital citizenship is to be there [online] and let yourself be seen as part of that world. It also helps them navigate that space." He also believes it's important to embrace the fact that children love social networking. "Social media is part of kids lives. Either we acknowledge it exists and allow ourselves to be part of the conversation, or it's one more way school becomes irrelevant to kids."

 Teachers need to monitor students' use of social media in the classroom. The use of Facebook and other platforms in class can lead to distractions and procrastination because kids may secretly use Facebook to play instead of work. For example, if a student is writing blog posts for a social studies class about an up-coming election, that's a good thing. But if he decides to use class time to check out what his friends are up to, it's a bad thing. It's important to make sure that students are actually "academically networking" while in class. They face a lot of temptation to do other things.

 Specific Applications

 Facebook Study Groups: Some students use this popular Facebook application to work together outside of the classroom. They can work on group projects, discuss assignments, share notes, and help each other prepare for tests.

 YouTube: This super popular video sharing website has a great deal of educational videos on a wide variety of subjects. Teachers have the opportunity to engage students by using a format they enjoy. Also, YouTube can be used as a home for student video projects.

 TeacherTube: TeacherTube is an online community that provides educators with the opportunity to post instructional videos. Teachers can also easily share educational videos with each other.

 HotChalk: An online learning management system, HotChalk is designed for K-12 teachers and lets them reach out to tech-savvy students. They correspond with students, create class websites, and keep track of coursework. Teachers have access to a huge digital library of educational content aligned with standardized curricula. There is a broad selection of videos to choose from to enhance lesson plans and engage students.

 Teachers can use and similar websites to help students prepare for college placement tests by integrating educational video clips into the classroom curriculum. Students can watch video clips and answer questions based on what they saw. It's a new way for students to learn standard-based materials.

 Social media in the classroom makes it easier for teachers to engage students with course materials. The old chalkboard is quickly becoming a relic!

 Brian Jenkins, a member of BrainTrack's writing staff since 2008, contributes feature articles about elementary school teaching careers, among other careers in the education field.