Written By: Cyndi Laurenti

Social media use has increased significantly since they caught on a few years ago. A recent study showed 1 in 14 people on Earth has a Facebook account. As social media use has proliferated, businesses have increasingly sought to leverage the advertising opportunities it offers.

It's also possible for teachers, school administrators, and students to use the power of social media to enhance learning online in PhD programs, elementary school, and anywhere in between. The following guide provides five of the top uses for social media in educational environments.

1. Enhanced Collaboration
While simply acquiring information can be accomplished alone, students' problem-solving skills are often better enhanced in a collaborative environment. Social media allow students to work together on projects beyond an individual's capability.

2. Enhanced Flipping
Social media can be used to enhance the teacher-student relationship. As classrooms have begun to evolve over the decade, educators are taking a hard look at traditional approaches to education. Regular classes usually consist of a lecture, with homework completed outside the classroom. Some educators are exploring a new way to teach, called “flipping” the classroom.

In this strategy, students view recorded lectures or read curricular material outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, students complete what usually qualifies as homework. Teachers act as tutors, helping students through problem areas in their work.

Social media software can be used to deliver this educational content outside of school, and facilitate collaboration between students and teachers as well as among students themselves during in-class work.

3. Real Time Information
Simple communication of up-to-date information to a student body is another way some schools are already using social media. Social media subscriptions can be helpful for providing homework assignments or assigning reading materials as well as enabling students to communicate with teachers outside the classroom. This use can also be a better way for schools to reach parents than mass e-mailings or sending home printed letters.

4. Collaboration Between Educators
Building course curricula is a challenging task. For higher grade levels, several days can easily go into creating a one-hour lecture. Social media can be powerful tools for educators to communicate ideas and share lesson plans.

5. Open Source Social Media
A public social media website like Facebook or Twitter may not be appropriate for a classroom setting, but there are many open source social media services that allow collaboration between individuals. Diaspora offers an open source alternative to traditional social media. It allows customization, enabling educators to host the platform on their own schools' servers.

Many students and teachers prefer to separate their school and personal lives. By offering an alternative to personal social media websites, educators can work in a controlled environment, building learning solutions that work best for different age groups.

While she figures out her next career move, Cyndi Laurenti works as an online writer and editor. Her primary interests are education, technology, and how to combine them. She enjoys the trees and beaches of the pacific northwest, and looking things up on other people's iPhones.

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