Why Social Media Isn’t Just for Millennials
by Rebekah Mueller, WMEA Vice President, Northeast District
Lately it feels like there is a new form of social media around every corner. Our students are crazy about it; often times willing to receive a detention for being caught with a phone just to see what one of their friends is having for lunch. While we can get annoyed by the dependency our students have on their phones, social media can actually be a real asset if we open our phones (and minds) to the possibilities.
While Facebook has been around for a long time, it can be used for a lot more than seeing pictures of old classmates’ children and giving a thumbs up to a new recipe. With just a few clicks, you can create a private group for your classroom. This works great with performing groups and parents that love to see pictures of their children performing. Creating a group allows you (or more people) to administrate the page and decide who is allowed to be in the group, what pictures can be posted, and what kind of information can be shared. You can set concert or performance events as well through these groups. It isn’t linked to your own personal Facebook page, yet you can keep in touch with your students and families in a form that can be a lot more practical than email.
WMEA also offers Facebook groups to post questions for quick response. They have a general group page for WMEA members posting upcoming events and relevant items happening around the state. In the band realm, the page Wisconsin Band Teachers Network carries posts on anything from questions about reeds to questions regarding suggested starting class A solos for the clarinet. Additionally, WMEA will be starting a group within the next month for general music teachers to post questions. The Wisconsin Choral Directors’ Association (WCDA) also has a private group to post questions in a similar format. To find these groups simply type the kind of group you are interested in the search bar and click on join group. An administrator can add you in a matter of minutes. Most often administrators of these pages stay on top of making sure that only teachers or relevant parties can become members. They discourage companies trying to sell things or post for their own agenda not related to teaching.
We’ve all seen the shirts saying “#’s aren’t just for hashtags.” What is a hashtag anyway? Actually, a hashtag or “#” is a way to connect to thousands of resources to help you in your classroom or find out more about what is happening in the world of music. You can type a subject in the search icon, and Twitter will suggest people for you to follow that have that word in their name or #’d in their tweets. Typing #vocalhealth brings up exercises to keep your vocal cords healthy and quizzes on vocal health knowledge within the first two responses.
Another way to use Twitter would be to look for specific people. For example, the composer Robert W. Smith has a Twitter account. If you follow him, which anyone is allowed to do, you can see anything he wants to talk about. He has “tweeted” about groups he’s worked with, new pieces of music, and other things he feels passionate about in music. Additionally, groups such as NAfME also have a Twitter account. You can read articles, find out quick tips and more. Many major performing groups, such as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, post concert series information, guest artist bios and sometimes even pre-sale information. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is generally public and limited to only a small amount of characters for spreading information.
While you can use Twitter as a way to talk about your personal life, you may find it more useful to give short updates or ideas about happenings in your performing groups or finding music ideas. If you choose to include a “#,” the words that follow the “#” sign automatically link with any other posts from anyone that include those same words. Typing #music will link it with thousands of other posts about music and allows a fast and easy way to find out anything that could be related to the topic you just “tweeted” about.
You may find Snapchat to be a good alternative to giving out your personal phone number to your students to get information to them quickly or get in touch with them. A Snapchat is a short video, picture or text that lasts for a short amount of time. Once it is viewed, it disappears. You can choose who you add to your list of people you would like to receive messages from and choose to whom your messages are sent. For example, if you had a reminder for students to wear black shoes written on the whiteboard, you could take a picture of it and send it via Snapchat to the students you select. The same idea could be used in taking a short video of a trill fingering demonstration or a hand drumming technique that you wanted students to see. The student would be notified that there is a message to be viewed. A student could respond quickly with a question back to you if needed. You could also put message, picture, or video on your “story” for everyone to see for the day, which is similar to other social media outlets. It is a short and simple way to communicate without the hassle of uploading video, attachments, or finding several emails addresses for sending out information.
There are many other kinds of social media in the digital world, but the three listed above give a quick snapshot of trending ways that you can connect with your students, families and other music colleagues. While social media isn’t for everyone, it certainly can provide an easy way to connect with others without giving out a large amount of your personal information or privacy. If you have questions concerning social media, privacy of content, or other digital outlets available for your classroom, this article only provides a small amount of the vast capabilities and opportunities available. Your best resource may be to ask one of your students to teach you about the best ways to utilize your social media site!