Can Social Media in the Classroom Give Voice to the Voiceless?

Posted on February 13th 2013

Can Social Media in the Classroom Give Voice to the Voiceless?

Regardless of time or place there are some aspects of school that will never change. You can always expect the class clown to act out for attention. There are those individuals that think everything is stupid. Oh, and let's not forget the people that shoot down all opinions that differ from their own. 

Picture all of that in a classroom setting.

It can be intimidating for the soft spoken or timid bunch with a low self-esteem. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to level the academic playing field? Wouldn’t it be fair to allow all voices to be heard and weighed according to the merit of the comment rather than be concerned with who it came from or how loud it was spoken?

social media in schools

Komo News published an article that described a pilot program that used a closed form of social media to teach sixth graders of Mount Vernon, Washington reading and writing skills as well as proper social media etiquette.  The program, Edmodo, is said to allow students to adopt an anonymous handle to communicate with their fellow classmates. The idea behind giving students anonymous identities is to encourage a more free exchange of ideas without fear of peer rejection, criticism, or embarrassment. 

The teacher’s role is stated to be a mediator. The teacher oversees communication between students is inline with expected etiquette, focuses on classroom discussion, and keeps students writing back and forth in proper grammatical form, not texting abbreviations. Students that don’t follow the rules can easily have their privileges suspended.

If a program like Edmodo is administered effectively and popularly spread across schools what are the implications for the development of students? Reflecting on my own grade school experience I kept mostly to myself in a classroom setting that I didn’t feel comfortable in and found a more outspoken voice in classes where I felt accepted. Could a program like Edmodo, if instituted early and consistently through school, change the virtual world to a place that has a recognized code of conduct or will people reject what they were trained in?

If one could express their ideas, no matter how unconventional, a student has the option to save face. An idea can be rejected without risk of the student feeling personally rejected as a consequence. It’s not hard to see why a student may want to test an opinion or a line of thought but avoid a sort of persecution if it is not generally accepted. An anonymous forum gives even the most reserved students the option to participate in discussion.

However, is academic social media a vessel to give voice to the sheepish or is it a handicap that prevents the teaching of necessary social skills? 

Will those students form habits that carry over to their internet and social media identities? Would a higher standard of posts become more prevalent? 


Christopher Hansen

Chris Hansen is a freelance writer with a Master's in social studies education and Bachelor's in history.  Follow Chris on twitter @ChrisDaleHansen

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