Using social media apps for inspiration in a Writing class

By Dr. John Jennings (TESOL)
Dr. John Jennings Is An Educational Theorist From Galway, He Has A PhD In TESOL With Research In Social-Media And Education. He Has Researched The Perception That Students Have Of Social Media In Education And How It Affects Their Interaction With The Academic World. He Is Also An Avid Virtual Runner.
Apps can provide inspiration during classroom debates.
Apps can provide inspiration during classroom debates.

Using social media apps for inspiration in a Writing class

When you want to focus on Writing skills a short-written assignment is usually a good idea.  However, while students may be enthusiastic, they may be short of ideas. Using social media apps can be a great help.

This technique is for Intermediate to Advanced levels and for older teens to adults. This is due to a minimum age requirement of 13 years old to have some social media apps, and if the students come across any inappropriate material online, they must be mature enough to discern fact from fiction.

The introduction should take about 10 minutes, this will introduce the students to the topic and the instructor will be able to access the students’ knowledge of the topic.

The instructor introduces a topic. For this technique we will select ‘Role Models’

Instructor: ‘Who is your Hero or Role Model?’

This will usually lead to a light discussion and the students will each select their favorite person (usually celebrity) and give a short reason.

After the initial discussion, and clarifying any vocabulary, the teacher will initiate the writing exercise. However, this is where the class usually becomes a little underwhelming. While the students love their role models, they may be short of facts. For example, they may not know how many awards their favorite pop star won, or which human rights award their hero received.

This is where social media comes into play. The teacher allows the students to look up information on social media and use it as inspiration or fact checking for their narrative. Due to the extra time for scrolling extra time should be added to the exercise. This should be given 25 minutes.

The instructor will walk around the class and advise the students on how to maximize search results. For example, they might suggest to students to type in search terms such as:

  • ‘BTS MTV Awards.’
  • ‘Nobel Prize Winner Categories.’
  • ‘Banksy Art Pieces’

Or possibly some hashtags:

  • #NobelPrize2024
  • #BanksyNews

Such search terms will easily bring up facts and information to bolster the students’ narratives. The teacher can also help by pointing out to students that when they are searching on social media they can click on ‘Latest’, ‘Recent’ or ‘Media’ for different results for the same search query.

The teacher can correct errors while the students are writing and afterwards bring any common vocabulary or grammar issues to the attention of the class. After time is up, it is a good idea to get the students to read their narratives to the class. They won’t mind reading their pieces as they are about someone they admire, and they have the most relevant and recent information they need from social media. Also, the other students will be interested to see who their classmates admire.

The reading section is proportional to the size of the class. Let’s say 30 minutes approximately. The great thing about this is that it will lead to questions. This happens especially if the Celebrity or Hero is exclusive to a certain culture. There may be some classmates who have never heard of them. For example, people outside of France may not have heard of Mylène Farmer or Spain’s Sabrina Salerno. When talking about politicians, it is rare that a class would be familiar with the inner workings of another countries system. The class are also learning about each other’s cultures, and with their social media present they can check out this new information.

After the reading and questions the instructor can have a short class discussion with the students about their experiences of using social media during the exercise. This can take 5 to 10 minutes.

Instructor ‘Did you find the application useful?’

‘Did you agree with what you saw in the search results?’

This end discussion helps the students to reflect on their use of social media and how relevant search results can be. It can also act as a forward or an introduction for a topic for the next lesson.

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