Teachers’ Perceptions of the Role of Social Media in Student Engagement

This paper presents a review of the possibilities and pitfalls of using social media as an educator. The use of computers in the classroom has already revolutionised teaching and learning, but the pace of change is still accelerating: as the 21st century began, a democratisation of the Internet (later referred to as “Web 2.0”) made increased levels of collaboration and interaction the new norm: anybody could share media, publish their thoughts and communicate in new, richer ways… but the vast range of opportunities now available has introduced new problems as well.
Most young people (i.e. students) have embraced social media and new means of communication that are on offer, but teachers are slower to adapt. One reason is the development effort required to migrate an educational activity to a new format: another may be that teachers are not convinced that appropriate standards can be maintained in cyberspace where their ability to control the experience is reduced.
How can professionalism be assured where teachers’ profiles, avatars and timelines are publicly visible? How can an educational experience occur amid a constant drizzle of information, some of it highly personal? Can a medium that is an integral part of students’ social life also play a part in their education, or will teachers struggle to build useful platforms on the shifting sea of technologies and trends?
The aim of the paper is to inform practitioners of best practice in the integration of social media, based upon the experiences of university-level educators who were interviewed to discover the extent to which they made use of social media in their teaching and related interactions with their students. Their concerns and past difficulties were recorded, as well as their achievements and aspirations for the future of social media in education. The result is a set of indicators that should make the integration of social media a safer and more enjoyable experience for all.