According to Marchand-Martella, two of the five areas of an effective adolescent literacy program are comprehension and motivation, both of which can be easily touched upon through social media, along with other modes of media. Story grammar, Summarization, and metacognition, all parts of comprehension, can be recognized in different social media websites, such as twitter and online forums. Using websites that students already use on a daily basis can be great motivators to students, as using these websites is a departure from "normal" classroom procedures. Most of the students will already be competent with the technology addressed in the classroom, leading them to become more confident in other aspects of the classroom.
Social media and the connectivity that has grown from it have irrevocably changed the way that students in America read, write, and communicate. Their writing uses the mediums of instant messaging, texting, twitter, and email, as well as posting on other social networking sites and blogs. Therefore, their writing does not follow traditional conventions, but instead features images, audio, and short hand in which vowels and punctuation take longer to use than they are worth. (Sweeny, 2010) Teachers shouldn't be alarmed by this, as they can use some of these non-traditional conventions to their advantage when trying to engage and motivate students into improving their literacy skills. When students are allowed to present and accumulate their information through multiple means of media, there is a better understanding of the classroom content. Once students have been engaged with and taught the subject matter through multiple means of media, such as videos, social media, magazine articles, etc, then students are more able to interact with texts that are in front of them to further their knowledge outside of the classroom. When students are taught how to engage with all of the means of information presented to them, their media literacy, along with reading literacy will increase.
Every educator should have their own professional blog, not to speak about personal subjects, but to have another form of interaction with students. If a student sees that the teacher uses social media in their every day life and are not just putting on a façade to engage with students, they're more likely to engage in conversation with the teacher. Thus, when a student has a real problem, they are more likely to interact with the teacher. Many students have issues with assignments, or difficulties in class and feel cautious when speaking to the teacher face to face, or in front of their classmates. Placing a computer and the wide expanse of the internet in between the educator and the student allows the student to feel as if they are on their turf, when in reality, they are on neutral ground. When students aren't worrying about how they feel in front of their classmates, or distracted by them, they are able to take the information presented to them and understand it better. When the teacher is there for them to ask questions outside of the classroom setting, the student is able to further their background knowledge about the content.
Allowing classroom discussions to happen over social media websites supplies students with the opportunity to think before they speak, and allows students the opportunity to discuss without time constraints that appear in the classroom. However, many teachers have concerns that students will not take online work seriously, or won't connect what they learn in school to their online activities. Despite those thoughts, as teachers move traditional written responses to literature onto online forums they find that students still use the literary discourse they learned from the classroom, along with asserting their own personalities in their discussion posts. More often than not, students realize that there are roles that they need to conform to when doing online school work, and they conform without teacher prompting because they want to impress their peers. However, this is not the case with all students, so ground rules and expectations about the type of language used in the forums should be set. (Sweeny, 2010)
Students who are able to communicate through social media, rather than face to face, have a built in reflection period that allows the student to think about what they want to say before and while they tailor a response. This allows reflection, rather than students blurting out answers until they stumble upon the response that the teacher approves of. While there is a built in reflection time, the use of social media is still quicker than other means of communication. Students benefit from this rapid fire communication and feedback from their peers and their teachers. (Mills, 2011) These forms of social media actively engage students in reading and writing through means of communicating. When students communicate over a literary text while on these forums, they are drawing on metacognitive reading comprehension strategies that have been taught to them, such as previewing a text to activate background knowledge, clarifying their understanding of the text as they read, and making inferences to draw conclusions about the possible directions of the unfinished text. (Mills 2011) Many students don't realize that while they are interacting with each other they are also using skills that they have learned in the classroom. Students who don't know how to use these comprehension strategies have a perfect model in front of them; one more relevant than the teacher could ever attempt to show in the classroom. The students without the skills are shown by their peers how to use the strategies through the use of the microblogging and online forums.
One of the major obstacles in reaching out to adolescents to better their literacy is that many of them have no interest in reading a text book to find out what is being taught to them. Many of them find the process of learning how to read a textbook is a strategy they can ignore. To them, reading is something to get them from the next grade, not something that should be practiced like an extracurricular activity. Those who plan to drop out as soon as possible don't care about reading at all. Students who are below level readers often need to be motivated into reading; otherwise they will become frustrated and ignore the texts placed in front of them, falling further and further behind. Many teachers make the mistake of giving students the textbook or an information heavy article as their only resource for information gathering. However, text is more than the concept of traditional printed materials that teachers and students find in the classroom. Film clips, websites, photographs, graphic novels, music, editorial cartoons, lyrics, and advertisements can be both informational and motivational, sometimes more so than a textbook. When students are given more options, their levels of engagement and competency increase. (Considine, 2009)
Twitter, in particular is a great way to engage students and get them motivated. The use of Twitter forces students to summarize what they want to say in 140 characters or less, therefore making them accountable for every single character they use. Students who are able to coherently summarize an event, text, or video in 140 characters have mastered summarizing, something that many students have difficulty in when asked to do so in a classroom or during a test. Students who use Twitter don't often realize that they are summarizing their daily lives and the events that happen in their life, and therefore don't connect their ability to do so as the ability to summarize. According to Greenhow C (2012), when students use twitter in informal and formal learning settings, they have positive educational outcomes such as increased student engagement, active learning, improved relationships between students and instructors, and higher grades. Classrooms that use Twitter have students willing to invest more time and effort into educational activities related to educational outcomes. Using Twitter can help students write concisely for a specific audience, add depth to class discussions, and offer differing views of the content knowledge.
Google Documents, while not categorized as, or intended to be social media, can be constructed to become a social network. Just as when students use online forums for rapid feedback, they can use Google Documents for rapid feedback on narrative or informal writing. If essays are written on Google Documents instead of Microsoft Word, students are able to communicate about what they are writing without leaving their seats through the built in chat window. When students have difficulties with word choice they can ask a question to the peer that is with them in the document. Students can work on their own documents, and when stuck pop into another student's work to help them, or ask for help while in their own document. This communication between students can help build vocabulary, story grammar, and word choice, among other key literacy areas.
E-books and the technology that surrounds them are another amazing way for students to interact with a text through non-traditional means. Depending on the technology associated with the e-book, students can interact through highlighting information they find valid, adding in pop up notes with predictions or summarizations, and literature responses. Students are actively encouraged to engage with the text, and therefore are better able to comprehend not only the text it self, but the vocabulary and word choice that the author has chosen. (Larson, L. C. 2009). When books are in the e-book format, there is often built in internet access, or access to a dictionary. When students encounter difficult or foreign words that they cannot decode through their decoding techniques they have an answer in front of them, allowing them to continue to read without interruption.
Students use a variety of media in their every day life, in and out of their school lives. Educators cannot make use of every one of these medias, as it would be impossible, but a good educator makes the effort to include multiple modes of media into their curriculum to better their students lives. Educators who fail to take advantage of these modes of media, especially the social media that students themselves use so often, are failing to prepare their students to be college and career ready in a world that is already so interconnected.