Social Media

U.S. K–12 Teachers Reluctant to Integrate Social Media in Classrooms

Nearly nine in 10 (86 percent) of American K–12 teachers have not integrated social media into their classrooms, and the majority (62 percent) indicate that they do not plan to do so, according to a recent University of Phoenix College of Education survey of teachers nationwide. The survey was conducted online in April by the Harris Poll.

Despite increasing use and popularity of social platforms outside the classroom, as documented in a study by Pew Research Center, the above numbers have remained virtually the same since 2015, and in fact, teacher use of social platforms in the classroom has decreased since late 2013, when about one in five (18 percent) said they integrated social media in their class teaching.

The University of Phoenix survey also indicates that four in five (81 percent) of K–12 teachers surveyed said they remain worried about conflicts that can occur from using social media with their students and/or parents (82 percent agreed in 2015). But only one in five (19 percent) said they are intimidated by students’ knowledge or use of technology devices.

“While there is understandably some hesitancy to incorporate social media into the classroom, there is a wealth of opportunity for teachers to use social media to enhance the student learning experience,” said Kathy Cook, dean of educational technology for University of Phoenix’s College of Education and a former K–12 teacher, in a prepared statement. “The first steps to using social media as an educational tool is acknowledging its impact on the lives of today’s students and teaching them about the importance of digital citizenship. If K–12 students experience social media in a productive environment like the classroom, it can help set the tone for their future usage.”

Forty-five percent of teachers agree that participation in social media with their teachers can enhance a student’s educational experience, according to the survey. This number increases substantially among those who have actually integrated social media in their classrooms, with 80 percent of those teachers saying social media can enhance a student’s educational experience.

Despite the hesitancy to use social media in the classroom, the survey indicates that more than four in five (83 percent) teachers use social media personally and more than one third (35 percent) use it professionally to communicate with colleagues, students and parents. Nearly one third (31 percent) of those surveyed said they have experienced issues with students and/or parents connecting with them on social media. More than three-quarters of K–12 teachers (76 percent) who responded said parents sometimes use social media to monitor teachers’ work and/or personal lives.

The survey was conducted online by the Harris Poll between April 14 and 25, 2016. The respondents were 1,005 American full-time K–12 teachers who have at least an undergraduate degree.

To help address some of the ethical dilemmas teachers face in the classroom environment, including social media, the University of Phoenix has integrated ethical decision making into its coursework and offers specific “continuing education for teachers” courses to help them navigate the increasingly social landscape.

Cook also offered some tips for engaging students in the classroom using social media platforms:

  1. Start small. Start a closed classroom Facebook group and encourage students to post and interact with each other.
  2. Create boundaries. Develop guidelines for how you plan to interact with students and parents and communicate it clearly.
  3. Be channel agnostic.
  4. Continue learning.
  5. Be social. Engage with other teachers in social media to learn what they are doing and find great ideas for projects.


About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].