Jun 16, 2019
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Using social media as a tool to teach

Teachers are no longer looking at social media as a distraction for student learning. They instead are embracing these new platforms as teaching tools and encouraging their use in the classroom.

Dr. Monica Billen, assistant professor in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development, is also connecting with students on a new level with her modern teaching methods.  

“I am using Instagram in my literacy of methodology course. The teachers are engaging in literacy practices in local schools in Fresno. When they engage in a literacy practice they take a photo and then they reflect about what they did on Instagram. Their classmates also follow their posts, and then they get together and talk about it,” Billen said.

She first began her research in 2014 and her dissertation was published in May 2015 and can be viewed online at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.    

“My research and dissertation is about using Instagram and photos to encourage teachers to reflect about their practice and it’s about the education system and about themselves the teachers,” Billen said.

Her research, “#Learningtoteach: Using Instagram to Elicit Pre-service Teacher Reflection,” won the 2016 Outstanding Dissertation Award at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).

“Dr. Billen has found a way to integrate this technology that we already use and applying that to our learning so we are able to process the information in a way that we are already comfortable with,” said Destinee Glasser, a current student of Billen’s who is working on her master’s degree in deaf education at Fresno State.

This year, The Guardian reported on eight ways universities are using social media. When it comes to Instagram, they report that it provides students with the opportunity to collaborate, comment, tag and expand discussions.  

“Within 10 years, the whole industry will be technology-based, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, anything. The technology will be based in the classroom, I can see it,” said Kaitlyn Warring, a previous student of Billen’s and multiple subject credential student at Fresno State.

As the classroom becomes more virtual, students are involved in real-time learning when using social media to complete assignments. Classroom collaboration has never been so convenient and fast, giving students the ability to post from anywhere at any time.  

“I think that Dr. Billen is doing a really excellent job. She’s definitely made a lot of effort to connect with her students in the way that she is teaching, and it’s really inspiring to go and try new things and to be more innovative,” Glasser said.

Jim Ryan, a mathematics professor at Fresno State, uses Facebook, so students can interact and ask homework questions. It is an open forum for everyone to interact and answer questions, not just the teacher.

“I’ve been using Facebook as a part of my teaching since 2009, mostly as a reminder of test dates and quizzes. I noticed that when I started posting the dates, more people started showing up for the tests and more students completing the course,” Ryan said. “Completion rates in my classes have gone up 4 or 5 percent.”

Social media isn’t the only technological transformation entering the classroom. Fresno State is technologically evolving with the times by bringing tablets into the classroom and educating students and teachers about the benefits of these hand-held devices.    

“For the first two weeks I’m considered a GOG. I go into a classroom and help with any technology problems, either with the teacher or with a student,” said Emily Ramos, a sociology major at Fresno State.

The DISCOVERe program has been at Fresno State for three years, and it seeks to educate all people about using tablets as a primary teaching and learning tool.

“We think we can definitely use technology as an advantage to teach students, because once they graduate, they will be facing many technological challenges, and we are trying to give them a head start right now so they can be prepared for the future,” said Chi Lei, a finance major at Fresno State.

For more information or help with any of your devices, visit the DISCOVERe center located on the first floor of the Henry Madden Library.

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