Let’s be honest. Students use social media to be social and social can be distracting. Most likely you don’t want a student to be posting about how much they hate your class while sitting in your class. What they plan to do this Friday with their “bff” is not going to help them with the presentation they should be working on in class.
It can also be extremely productive and has weaved itself into the fabric of society. If I take a picture of someone with my phone their first response is “Post that to Facebook and make sure you tag me in it.” Just about every website that has a membership program allows you to signup using your Facebook or Twitter account. Some even require it! Sociology and psychology classes have an open experiment pool running on Twitter that can be tracked with the latest trending hashtag. Facebook groups allow students to collaborate on a platform that has become their version of email. There are new social networks popping up daily and harnessing these sites (or at least understanding they are there and how they work) should be a priority for educators and administrators.
Social media has become so important to marketing that companies are employing entire departments just to manage their social media presence. Currently the University of Michigan is hiring a Social Media Director that will be paid 6 figures!
Social media is not a red light district. Like every other part of the Internet it has it’s dark side but we must be diligent to teach students how to properly use social media just as we diligently teach them proper use of nouns, the square root of 81, and what the heart of a frog looks like. Social media is no longer just relevant. It is important. Educators are educating themselves every day on Twitter via chats that connect them to other educators around the world.