Teachers connecting with students on social media: not just a jump on the bandwagon

Social Media Week

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In over seven years of teaching experience, I have always tried to maintain a TungTungChan
positive relationship with my students – both in and out of the classroom.
Last year I was hired by the Erasmus University College as an Academic Skills Trainer, and it was my very first time teaching young adults. After two months, one of the two groups that I was teaching, created a Facebook group for our class. The students were convinced that having a Facebook group would be beneficial for course communication and relationship building.

As I was concerned about whether I was violating any university policy, I conducted some online research and found that there was no policy for social media usage amongst students and teachers in higher education. However, newspapers and academic research approach the topic in two different ways.

The media at large disapproves of the idea. Some suggests that it does not promote formal learning, that it causes inappropriate student-teacher relationship and unprofessionalism. Many schools in the United States have social media policies and guidelines, some strictly forbid students and teachers from connecting online and fire teachers who violate this rule. On the other hand, academic research has found that Facebook can be used as a learning management system (LMS), teacher’s self-disclosure on social media can stimulate classroom atmosphere, students´ motivation and academic performance.

The primary criticism of using social media in a higher educational setting is that both students and teachers may open themselves to public scrutiny of their online profiles and risk their reputation by revealing personal information. Howard Rheingold, aka the father of the idea of a virtual community has been a social media advocate in his teaching and introduced the Social Media Classroom as a course. He believes that the responsibility of educating students about the risks of using social media and online disclosure lies with the teachers.

There has been an ongoing debate about legal and ethical concerns of using social media amongst teachers and students without any establishment of a theoretically grounded philosophy. There is no consensus and common understanding on how social media can best be used to foster and maintain student-teacher relationship.

In the Social Media Week, I will share why I think teachers and students should connect on social media and attempt to develop a ‘common sense’ solution to this issue.

The point of teachers connecting with students on social media isn’t just to jump on the bandwagon, but to allow ourselves to take part in the changing relationship dynamic between teachers and students, as well as the improvement of teaching method. I believe that a teacher’s expertise and authority on the subject will be replaced by information technology in the future. The most urgent question we need to be asking today is: why are traditional teaching method still being applied while we have strong evidence that schools kill creativity?

I believe our only hope for a better future is to adopt a new conception of what it means to be a teacher in this ever-changing, information-driven digital age, which is not confined by the current societal and cultural standards. Think about all the teachers you have had in your life, have they made an impact in your academic performance and personal development? Can this human factor be translated online and be exercised on social media?

We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we are educating our children. Sticking to the outdated pedagogy approaches and awkward conception of student-teacher roles will not bring us any further.

Social media are accessible, global platforms where we can learn how to grow into independent and responsible individuals by interacting with one another, platforms unlike any humanity has ever seen before. We need to learn how we can interact with one another online in an appropriate way, so we, the human population can organize and utilize the collective power we have in our own hands: the power to change our societies for the better.

Get inspired by Tung Tung‘s story during Social Media Week Rotterdam. She will share why she thinks teachers and students should connect on social media and attempt to develop a ‘common sense’ solution to this issue. 

Tung Tung Chan

Academic Skills Trainer, Erasmus University College


I was born and grew up in Malaysia. Since 2007, I have studied, lived and worked in Taiwan, South Korea and the Netherlands. I teach the Academic Skills courses to students of Erasmus University College, a Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) bachelor programme founded in 2013. Besides being a language teacher and Skills trainer, I am also a freelance marketing & communications consultant. My portfolio comprises of small medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-up as my expertise lies in (re)structuring of communication strategies, academic/corporate research for thorough media analysis and consultation. I am also capable of hosting, singing, performing first aid & locating delicious restaurants.

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