This article illustrates how to use social media to include approaches to learning skills in a Primary Years Programme (PYP) classroom.
Social media runs on all devices, influences our thought processes and guides this generation of students in making decisions. To avoid use of social media in making learning more authentic and contemporary would be a mistake. As educators, we can guide our students in building better skills for using social media in more meaningful ways than just as a tool to chat and for a casual search.
We used the following steps to create an enriched learning environment in our PYP classroom using social media.
A “How we express ourselves” unit was planned for year 5, with the central idea of “Technology is the modern language of human expression”. The key concepts supporting this unit were: form, function and perspective.
It was important to identify which social media tools have more influence on this age group and which tools could be introduced to build their skills further.
The first step was to have our students reflect on what they knew about social media. We used the strategy of scenarios to challenge their critical thinking skills and to add real-life connections to their learning. Here are two simple scenarios that worked well.
- Sonia wants to travel to Europe from Japan. She wants to organize a trip for her family independently. How do you think she will be able to do this? Where can she find authentic feedback?
- Ria has learned taekwondo for self-protection and feels strongly about training other children her age. However, she has no time to hold classes regularly. How do you think she can reach other students on a regular basis?
To make these scenarios more interesting for students, we created QR codes and pasted them in the classroom. QR codes bring a little adventure to the information someone wants to communicate. They can be scanned using an online app and are used to connect the user directly to the information available online. The students moved around the classroom and inquired into as many scenarios as they could.
The second step was collaboration. Social media itself promotes collaboration and communication of ideas. To bring everybody to the same level of understanding, we printed images related to various social media. The students were divided into groups according to their different levels of understanding so that support could be provided to those who needed it. The students were asked to sort the images. Those who knew, led the group; those who did not know, learned through this process. After sorting the images, we asked them to annotate:
- What is a post?
- Why do we tweet?
- What is a timeline?
The students were asked to add questions that came to their minds as well. Discussions in their groups on these questions kept them involved and helped them form an understanding around social media and its usage.
In the next step, we used the power of a selfie to enhance creative thinking skills. We asked our students to move around the school and take a selfie. However, to make it more interesting, they were asked to choose a background for their selfie that would convey a message. Some students created posters and banners to add a message in the background. Other students simply chose backdrops with messages written on the whiteboard, 3D printer, mobile devices, trees and handshakes. Since the purpose of this activity was to make them understand the function of social media and its far reaching effects, some of these selfies featured on our class blog and some on our class boards. Our blog drew reaction from parents and students from other grades, and class board drew like or dislike comments.
Final step: the previous activity gave us the idea to have a debatable topic on using social media responsibly for communication. We asked our students to collaborate with their peers to bring their point of view forward on “Is social media a blessing for or a burden on communication?” through Padlet, an online collaboration tool. This activity brought forward the perspective that on social media, one must be careful of what they express and how it will influence others.
As teachers, we support our students to become careful digital citizens in the 21st century where social media holds an influential position. Helping our students to use social media with care and build a better society will play a major role in their lives. Our classrooms should lead the way in preparing them for the challenges of the future.
Ekta Singh is teaching ICT in PYP and design in MYP at DPS International, Gurgaon which is an IB continuum school in India. She is also an approaches to learning coordinator and enjoys planning strategies to empower students with 21st-century skills. She is passionate about the integration of technology in units of inquiry and always on a lookout for creative technology tools for students. You can follow her on twitter @ektadsingh.