SHS classrooms use social media to engage world, enrich learning

SHS classrooms use social media to engage world, enrich learning

One of the basic skills students acquire from an education just received an update with 140 characters and hashtags.

At Scottsburg High School, students are using Twitter to express what they are reading in the classroom while engaging fellow classmates, a worldwide audience, and the authors of the books they are reading.

“[We] were looking for a place for kids to share the books that they were reading because students are constantly asking for ideas on what to read,” said Michelle Mihalik (@mammihalik), English teacher at SHS. “We decided to have students share on social media because that is a place that they use to connect and it allows them to connect all across the district as well as with the outside world.”

In Mihalik’s freshmen English and Interpersonal Relationships class, which she team-teaches with Beth Walton (@BethWalton81), the students were asked to tweet about their book they are reading at least every two weeks. They have to include the hashtag — a way to organize tweets — #Scott2Reads and a quote from the book or a thought about the book, Mihalik said. The students could also ask a question or write their microblog-sized review about their book. Students were encouraged to tag the author of the book and find the author online in order to start a conversation with them.

“I like it. I like the chance to have your author tweet you back,” said Mark Hays, a freshman student in Mihalik and Walton’s class. “I read ‘Swagger’ by Carl Deuker. About a day after I tweeted, he tweeted me back. I thought that was pretty cool he tweeted me back.”

Students use their personal Twitter accounts on their phones or on their school-issued MacBooks during class time. Some students who do not wish to use social media are allowed to post about their books in a discussion board set up in the class Canvas page. The students favorite or “heart” each other’s tweets and reply back-and-forth to one another.

“It helps create interest and connection between classes and with the larger world,” Walton said. “Tweeting about reading helps students to share books they like with anyone searching the hashtag, #Scott2Reads. Students like the interaction of their friends and classmates ‘liking’ their posts. This encourages other students to read too.”

Not only are Mihalik and Walton using Twitter in the classroom, but social studies and science are using the social media platform too.

The American Studies teachers (@AmericanStudies, @mrfoto, @AngelaBray8, and @CompProbzSHS) have been using Twitter for three years to interact with their students. Teacher Jason Bagwell said about 70 percent of their students use Twitter.

“It’s a community builder,” Bagwell said. “They can connect with students and the larger world.”

In American Studies, students can take photos and tweet for enrichment or extra credit. During Christmas, Bagwell said the students can participate in the #12daysofselfies, where students take pictures of themselves participating in Christmas activities. Another activity the American Studies teachers offer to the students are to take a photo a historical marker that tells the story of a horse in the Spanish-American War. This helps bring awareness of the rich history of the Indiana, the United States, and Scott County, while teaching the students about the historical events and people.

“We were looking for a way to communicate that the kids pay attention to. They like to see themselves, share themselves in social media,” Bagwell said.

In the science classroom, teachers Robert Deirth (@RobertDeirth) and Rorie Lizenby (@rdlizenby) are using Twitter to show what the science department is doing in their classes with the hashtag, #Scott2Science.

“I wanted to start using Twitter to help publicize what was going on in the science classes. We have students who might be unaware of the opportunities we offer, and this was a way to get the word out both on classes that are offered and some of the activities that we do in those classes,” said Deirth, who is also the Science Department Chair. “The idea was that we might showcase some of what is going on, and if students follow the hashtag or see a retweet from another student, then exposure to science is increased. And exposure to science is never bad.”

Deirth and Lizenby showcase what experiments and projects are ongoing in their classrooms, including using chemistry and pumpkins, building in engineering, and creating a functioning prosthetic hand using a 3-D printer.

“For students, Twitter is so commonplace that, in one sense, they have not responded; for them, it is natural to share the tweets, follow my Twitter feed, and so on. In another way, now students will look for me to take a video or picture during a lab that will be posted. They know I’m not going to take staged shots, so to get in the Twitter feed they have to be working hard and on task,” Deirth said. “Some have asked to be tagged in pictures because they enjoy seeing themselves. Others have come back to class to keep talking about labs from the previous days due to the postings; for science, it is great to have the continued discussion over the labs.”

Using social media in the classroom to engage and communicate with students and a worldwide audience — while enriching learning through technology — is how teachers are preparing students for the future. At Scott County School District 2, Scottsburg High School’s story is our story. Your story matters. You matter.