K-12 Teachers Use Social Media at Home, But Not in Class, Poll Finds

Managing Editor

Cross-posted from the Digital Education blog

Many teachers are not keen on bringing social media into their classrooms, even though they appear to be quite comfortable using those forums in their personal lives, a new survey reveals.

Just 13 percent of K-12 teachers are weaving social media into classroom learning, according to the results of a national poll of educators released this week by the University of Phoenix’s College of Education.

That means an overwhelming majority of those polled, 87 percent, are not using those online platforms when they’re working with students.

Those findings could have implications for companies and entrepreneurs trying to create platforms or systems that connect with teachers via social media, or take advantage of educators’ use of those online forums.

In fact, more teachers appear to have recently turned away from using social media in school than have embraced it, the poll found. Sixty-two percent of teachers today are reluctant to incorporate social media into classroom learning—up from 55 percent two years ago, when a similar poll was conducted, the university reports.

One of the more intriguing findings in the survey, which was conducted online by the Harris Poll, is that teachers are much more receptive to using social media away from school than they are when they’re standing in front of a roomful of students. Seventy-eight percent of teachers surveyed said they interact with social media for personal use. Just 16 percent said they don’t use social media at all. 

But when it comes to using social media on the job, teachers evidently get quite skittish.

The poll results do not break out teachers’ frequency in using specific types of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on.

“[M]any students are totally immersed and well-versed in these platforms,” said Kathy Cook, the dean of educational technology at the university’s college of education, in a statement accompanying the results.

“For teachers to stay current, keep students engaged, and promote learning,” she argued, “it is important for teachers to acknowledge the influence of social media and understand how to use it to the benefits of their students.”

Among the other findings in the poll:

  • While almost all K-12 teachers polled said they had some training related to integrating technology into the classrooom, 62 percent said they had little or no training in communicating with students or parents via social media;
  • Just 44 percent of those polled believe social media can enhance a student’s educational experience;
  • A strong majority of teachers, 82 percent, voiced concerns about conflicts emerging with students or parents through social media use;
  • Nearly 60 percent said that students’ use of personal technology devices outside of school makes it more difficult for students to pay attention in group settings in classrooms; and
  • Twenty percent of teachers said they felt intimidated by students’ understanding or use of technology devices.

Many school district officials regard the social media landscape with a degree of wariness, and it’s possible those anxieties are shaping educators’ views.

Over the past few years, some districts have sought to ramp up monitoring of students’ social media use to prevent everything from cyberbullying to cheating on tests. But school leaders have also absorbed criticism from parents and privacy advocates for attempting to regulate student online activity, and seeking access to students’ social-media passwords.

The Phoenix survey is based on an online poll of 1,002 full-time K-12 teachers in the United States. The results were collected between April 14-27. Over-samples of teachers were collected from teachers in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Florida for the purposes of getting more specific details on educators in those regions. 

While teachers may have legitimate worries about how social media will be used by students, there are myriad benefits to educators encouraging the use of those platforms in classrooms, Cook said in an interview. One is that in-school activities offer teachers an opportunity to encourage students to use social media and other digital tools responsibly. Teachers can help students understand the consequences of posting something that would embarrass them later, she said.

The question is “how do you conduct yourself online?” she asked. “How do you build a positive presence online?”

Many teachers are already using tools like Twitter to help themselves professionally—such as by sharing ideas for lessons with their peers, Cook noted.

“The main point is that social media isn’t going anywhere,” Cook explained. For teachers, “it’s pretty hard to [just] shut your eyes” and ignore the influence of social media entirely.

The University of Phoenix is a for-profit higher education institution based in Arizona, with campuses around the country. Its college of education offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for current and aspiring teachers. 

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