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Social Media Made Simple

Free tech to help you get more from your lesson plans.

Found In: advice & support

Thanks to physics teacher Michelle Gould Burgess’ seamless integration of social media into her lesson plans, her students are busy launching marbles out of a catapult instead of listening to a lecture.

For last night’s homework, they read Gould Burgess’ blog, watched her lectures via podcast— including a “bonus trigonometry podcast”—and they’ve stored their assignments in Google Docs.

Gould Burgess teaches in a “flipped classroom,” so her students complete their “lower-level thinking” for homework, and engage in “higher-level thinking,” like the marble and catapult lab, in the classroom. After watching the podcasts at home, students come to class ready to work on more advanced exercises that build on what they learned from the lectures. Gould Burgess’ students subscribe to her blog, which is run through Wordpress, so that all their homework materials are emailed to them when she posts them online.

Gould Burgess said her system is especially helpful because students have no excuse not to do their homework. “They know that I know, that they have everything they need [to do their work],” she says.

The blog/podcast system is useful for classwork as well, she says, because if she’s helping one student and another needs her, she can refer them back to the specific part of her podcast that will help them. This allows her to assist many students at once.

Gould Burgess believes teaching her students 21st-century-thinking skills, like familiarity with word-processing software and social media platforms, is just as important as teaching them more classic fundamentals.

Classroom-friendly Social Networking with Edmodo

Scott McDonald, a middle school technology teacher in Bend, Oregon, says he felt responsible for teaching his students to use social media.

“These kids need to learn how to communicate through social media—they need to learn how to be polite and well-mannered,” he says.

But teachers are understandably concerned about which platforms they bring into the classroom, and some, like Facebook, are blocked in many districts.

Enter Edmodo, a free, easy alternative designed for teachers.

Edmodo also has assignment, quiz, and polling applications, and students can submit their homework or other assignments through the site. It only takes a minute for teachers to sign up on Edmodo, and after they invite their students onto the site, teachers can post questions or comments, similar to a Facebook status update, and students can reply.

“Edmodo allows students to turn projects in digitally, it helps keep kids accountable, and it allows me to provide feedback and annotated notes,” McDonald says.

It also helps McDonald speed up the grading process. He recently administered a test to 600 students, and it took him only two days to score them.

McDonald says he loves how students share with their families what they’re doing on Edmodo. When he had printouts, McDonald said, his students would have to go “back-in-time” to fish the papers out of their bag to show their parents. Now, thanks to Edmodo, students are showing off their work to their parents more easily and more often, he says.

Busy Work Gets Easier

Gould Burgess’s physics class is a whole lot of fun. The current homework section of her class website reminds students, “Next week look for the most chaotic lab you will ever enjoy, the ‘Shoot the Marbles out of the Launcher Contraption all Over the Room’ lab. It’s…a mess. But it’s fun, and you’ll learn!”

But her class wouldn’t be nearly as fun without all the new technology she uses.

Gould Burgess says Google Forms is one of the most useful applications she relies on. Using it, she can administer a quiz that her students complete electronically, and Google Forms immediately compiles all the data and organizes it into an easy-to-read chart showing how well the class did.

“It makes the ‘busy work’ of being a teacher so much easier,” she says.

And since her students store all their lab data on Google Docs, they can access it from any computer.

“They never say ‘I can’t find this,’ or, ‘I don’t know this,’ ” she says. “They always have access to the information they need.”

And when her students work on group projects in Google Docs, Gould Burgess can see the revision history of the document—who changed what in the document and when. She says this keeps students accountable, and it allows her to easily measure how much work they’ve done.

Using Cell Phones At School

Instead of constantly trying to get students to put their phones away, educators can use the devices to their advantage.

Celly, a group messaging service for cell phones, is ideal for educators who want to communicate instantly with students via phone but don’t want to share their personal numbers.

The teacher can start a “cell,” or group, by texting “Start” to Celly at 23559. Then they set up a username and group name, then text the group members’ phone numbers. After everyone is invited, text “X” to stop. Then the members can text “@GroupName” to join.

Students can use the cells to set up study groups, advisers for clubs or activities can text the group to quickly cancel or reschedule a meeting, and teachers can text their students homework reminders or other information.

Celly is particularly useful on field trips, so students can text their whereabouts or any questions to the teacher, and parent chaperones can join in on the cell. On the ride back from the field trip, educators can text trivia questions to the students for some added fun.

Getting Started

You don’t need to dramatically revamp your lesson plans to include a new social media platform. Start small, and try integrating a platform you or your students already use. Your students will be more involved in the lesson, and they’ll have you to thank later when they know how to use social media effectively.


10 Sites To Bring New Media Into Your Classroom Quickly


Wordle—Is your class interested in a particular topic? Type some of their comments into Wordle, and see a visual interpretation of all the words they used.

Prezi—Are your PowerPoint presentations putting kids to sleep? Prezi has fun and interesting slide transitions to keep your kids guessing about what will happen next.

Teacher Tube—Is YouTube blocked at your school? Or worse—did you use it, only to have a less-than-appropriate video pop up as “suggested?” Teacher Tube has classroom-approved videos.

Quora—If you have a question, Quora has an answer. Users can post questions and other members suggest and debate answers.

Poll Daddy—Quickly and easily set up a survey or poll for your students. You can see the answers instantly—no tallying required!

Thing Link—Turn a picture into a visually appealing cluster of links. Tag people in a photo and link to articles about them, or cover an infographic in links for further information. Then post the image to your class’s web page! Try free for 14 days.

Skitch—Skitch is a quick and easy photo-editing app. Language teachers might find it particularly useful. Load up a photo and have the student label everything in it with correct the vocabulary.

Dipity—Create visually appealing and interactive timelines. Each event can have an image, and a link to more information. Users can scroll through the timeline and click on the events that interest them.

Wordpress—Do you find your district’s web host hard to use? Make your own page using Wordpress. If your students subscribe, they’ll receive an email every time you post something new.

Pinterest—Teachers post free print outs, pictures of beautiful classrooms, and links to resources. Don’t forget to follow NEA Today!




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