When you think about using social media in the classroom, preschool centers might not be the first thing to come to mind. But, incorporating social media into early education can have a number of benefits for both your students and staff.
At ChildCare Education Institute, we’re dedicated to providing early childhood professionals like you with the resources and tools you need to be the best possible educator. As a result, we’re constantly keeping up with industry trends and evolutions — including the pros and cons of social media in the classroom.
We’re sharing what we’ve learned in this brief guide in hopes that it helps you decide whether or not social media is something you’d like to incorporate into your next preschool lesson plan.
How can using social media in the classroom benefit students?
While most of the benefits of social media in the classroom primarily apply to older students (including building communication skills, engaging with news sources and more), there are still some that are relevant for students in early childhood care.
For example, social media can be a great way to introduce new concepts to kids in an engaging way — or to reinforce existing concepts visually. Let’s say you’re teaching your students about zoo animals. Incorporating a YouTube video featuring monkeys and elephants is an easy way to help visual learners in your classroom process the information in a new way.
By incorporating digital media into your lesson plans, you can also help spur your students’ creativity. For example, showing them a Facebook video about a child finger painting might inspire your students to make their own creations both in the classroom and at home.
Using social platforms can also be an effective way to introduce your students to the concept of diversity and cultural competence. With social media videos, you can show your students how children of other cultures live. It can also be a great way to spark conversation about how people of all cultures still share a lot of common ground despite their differences.
Finally, as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, digital media offers students the important ability to be able to continue their learning even when they can’t be in the classroom for instruction. Thanks to social media, students can watch videos at home and/or take part in distance learning using platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. They can also keep in touch with their classmates to continue building and strengthening their personal relationships.
How can social media in the classroom benefit teachers?
As a teacher, you can reap a lot of benefits by using social media in the classroom. For example, utilizing center or classroom accounts on Instagram and Facebook can be an easy way to keep parents informed and engaged about what goes on during their child’s school day. Social media can also be a great way for preschool directors to attract new students and share messaging about what makes their program and staff unique.
Finally, digital media allows educators like you to be more creative with their lesson plans without having to put in additional work. For instance, if you’re planning a lesson around different places in the world, you can easily source a video with clips of different locales and include it in your presentation. Before social media, you would either have to create that video on your own, or you’d have to stick to a purely auditory presentation.
Are there any downsides to using social media in the classroom?
As with any learning tool, there are certainly pros and cons of social media in the classroom. One of the biggest downsides is that children could easily access content that’s not appropriate for their age and stage of life. That’s why it’s important that any social media use in the classroom is closely monitored. We recommend that you always oversee use (rather than allowing students to surf the platforms freely). But, if you’re planning to include any digital media in your free play centers, be sure to install content blockers or parental controls ahead of time.
Another potential downside to social media in the classroom is overuse. Before building out your lesson plan, take a look at the daily recommended screen time for your students’ age ranges. Then, ensure any screen time you allow kids during the day doesn’t exceed the maximum limit. For most preschoolers, the recommended daily limit is one hour.
While there are pros and cons of using social media in the classroom, most of the downsides can be eliminated with proper monitoring and planning.
How can I incorporate social media into my preschool classroom?
As we’ve alluded to, there are a number of ways you can incorporate digital media into your daily classroom routine. The first (and perhaps easiest) is integrating YouTube videos into your lesson plans. Whether it’s a catchy song to help your students learn basic math skills or a wacky science experiment to help them grasp STEM concepts, these videos are a fun way to keep students engaged and add another layer to your curriculum.
Music streaming services like Spotify or Pandora are another easy way to incorporate digital media into your classroom. If your lesson plan has a theme, try creating a music playlist that matches. Then, while your students are working on independent assignments, play the music in the background. This can help further immerse students into each theme and can help them stay focused on their tasks. These services are also helpful to use during music time when introducing new instruments or genres of music.
Finally, as a teacher, you can incorporate social media into your classroom by creating private Facebook groups or Instagram pages for parents to follow. Then, you can share fun videos and photos of your students throughout the day on your page, along with information about upcoming events, at-home activity recommendations and important deadlines.
Want to learn more about using social media in the classroom? We have two online courses that can help!
For more information about best practices, we recommend taking a look at Technology and Social Media Policy in the Early Care and Education Environment. If you’re interested in reading more about how digital media is reshaping child development, try The Child’s Digital Universe: Technology and Digital Media in Early Childhood.
All of our courses are available 24/7 from any device — and earn you IACET CEUs at no additional cost. To learn more about our offerings, and to get started, click here.