10 social media-inspired learning activities: no accounts necessary

If your students aren’t using social media yet, they probably know all about it!

Certain aspects of social media could make for great learning activities and assessments. But there’s all of that other junk — like terms of service, the fleeting nature of some posts, not wanting to post educational stuff to a personal account, etc.

Well … you don’t need the app to create the experience!

In this post, you’ll find 10 ways to bring social media excitement into your learning activities.

I learned this first-hand in my own classroom when the Vine app craze it. 

The following is an excerpt from my new book, Tech Like A Pirate, which will be released in spring 2020. Tech Like A PIRATE encourages teachers to provide those experiences by tapping into technology that grabs students’ attention immediately and redefines learning. Keep updated on the release of Tech Like a Pirate by subscribing to Ditch That Textbook email newsletter.

One day in my Spanish classes, I asked my students if they knew about Vines. Some of them looked offended that I’d even question that. “Uh, yeah. They’re amazing,” they told me. “So,” I asked, “what if we made Vines as part of class?”

Instantly I had their rapt attention. Making Vines in class? Their minds raced for a moment. I could read it all over their faces. “This doesn’t make sense,” they were surely thinking. “Teachers hate social media. They’re always telling us to put our phones away. Is Mr. Miller really going to let us use them?”

The answer? Well, yes and no.

Yes, we were going to make six-second videos.

Yes, they were going to use mobile devices to shoot them.

Yes, they were going to resemble Vines. (Kind of.)

No, they weren’t going to use the Vine app.

At first, I wanted to get the app in students’ hands. But I realized that idea was fraught with disaster. The app was rated 17+ on Apple’s App Store, putting it out of reach of most of my students. There was explicit content in some Vine videos. Plus, the thought of all of those usernames and passwords and accounts to keep up with started to give me a headache.
Then, it dawned on me. It wasn’t the app that I wanted. It was the experience. I wanted students to have the experience of using Vine without actually getting their fingers soiled by the Vine app itself. ​

So we started shooting vocabulary Vines. Students planned how they would spend their precious six seconds. They wanted to get as much comedy, as much fun, as much “wow” as possible to impress their friends. And, of course, they had to include the vocabulary word in the video.

The lesson created a lot of buzz! Students loved creating them. It was the proof of concept that I was hoping for. The problem was that our six classroom iPads just weren’t up to the task yet. They didn’t make creating, sharing and viewing the videos as easy as I’d hoped. Plus, I hadn’t found the perfect app for creating looping videos without Vine yet. I guess you could say that the idea was a bit ahead of its time.

The lesson was a bit of a bust. But the seed was planted deep inside my teacher soul.

You don’t need the app to create the experience.

Think about what hooks students on their favorite apps …

  • Social media apps let them share their lives in front of an audience of their peers and keep tabs on what everyone else is doing, saying, wearing and eating.
  • Game apps challenge students and occupy their free time. They provide bragging rights when they reach scores no one else can. (I remember one student’s legendary run through the Flappy Bird game. It was the talk of the hallways for weeks!)
  • News apps keep them up to speed on what’s happening in pop culture, sports, fashion and whatever else is important to them — and their friends.