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Staying Relevant: Using Social Media to Address Current Issues in Teacher Preparation

Author: Ashley Y Grays, M.

Both online and asynchronous courses are typically designed and solidified before the start of the semester. Ridgid class structures leave little room for current events in the special education field or the dis/abled community. This can lead to a disconnect between classroom content and what is happening in real time. Social media has made access to the voices of differently able individuals readily available, and they are constantly discussing perspectives and events that affect their lives. Open discussions about current issues may help pre-service teachers gain confidence in having difficult conversations about and with the students they serve. 

Flexible Discussions

A potential solution is for instructors to source current social media posts or videos for discussions. Instructors can leave some or all discussions open for current issues in the field. Bringing in a topic or opinion from the voice of someone with a dis/ability can benefit pre-service teachers who may have only learned about dis/ability from non-disabled sources. 

Instructors can give pre-service teachers more autonomy by having them source videos or issues to share in class and lead discussions in a Socratic circle. Pre-service teachers may have questions or thoughts about the topics that instructors can address or build into the course content. The instructor can make the class safe to have difficult conversations and hear different perspectives.

Amplifying Voices

Historically, most writings in courses about people with disabilities have not been done by people with disabilities. Suppose pre-service teachers learn how to listen to and involve the perspectives of those impacted by decision-making. In that case, they are more likely to consider said voices when entering the classroom and making decisions for things like IEP meetings. This may also increase empathy which is relevant to educational outcomes.

Social Media

Apps like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram have provided platforms for previously unheard voices. Creators can vocalize their opinions on upcoming legislation, share their academic experiences and concerns, and demonstrate their everyday lives. This can demystify the lives of those with dis/abilities and provide the opportunity for pre-service teachers to understand their thoughts and beliefs on topics currently impacting the community.

Ronen, I.K. Empathy Awareness Among Pre-service Teachers: the Case of the Incorrect Use of the Intuitive Rule “Same A–Same B”. Int J of Sci and Math Educ 18, 183–201 (2020).

Keep the Conversation Going

How do you use social media in your teacher preparation courses? How do you use current events in your courses? What strategies do you employ to ensure that content is current and relevant? Join the conversation in our community and share your resources with others!