The use of social media by most school children is a reality. It won’t be going away anytime soon. The key is not to let it become a hindrance to perform well in tests and exams.
When we mention “social media” and “exams” in one sentence the first thing people tend to think is “procrastination and distraction”. “This cannot end well for my child!” Some concerns are valid and if these platforms aren’t used wisely, it can have negative effects on developing children. However, we live in an era where social media platforms are commonly used by adolescents. It is a reality and up to every parent to choose when and how they’ll allow their children to use these Apps. Instead of unrealistically trying to ban it or forbid them to use it, we can try to adapt accordingly. These platforms can be utilised as tools to help teens with their academics. The advantage that a social media platform has, is that many teens are already familiar with it. We might as well start using social media as a means to improve ourselves instead of wasting time watching videos about cute cats and allowing it to replace our human interactions.
Here are 3 productive ways you can use social media in your learning plan:
1. YouTube Tutorials.
Today, YouTube isn’t just for music videos or funny clips. YouTube operates as an entire search engine on its own. If you need a tutorial on how to make a science project or how to pronounce certain words in a foreign language, YouTube almost certainly has you covered. You might consider using it next time you didn’t understand a topic in the economic class! You might also become interested in a vast new field of study that you may not even have been aware of. Many teens and young adults create tutorials, informative videos and even documentaries! It is inspiring and encouraging for other adolescents to see! Just don’t get side-tracked by non-related video suggestions. And if you decide on starting a YouTube channel to share some of your knowledge – don’t obsess over views and likes. Do it because you are passionate about the topic!
Another great way to utilise YouTube is to put on relaxing study music in the background. No, this does not necessarily mean classical music as many may think! There are many composers that write music specifically to help keep their listeners motivated, calm and focussed – the perfect atmosphere to study. The music is largely based on simple melodies and harmonies and also contains manipulation of sounds that create atmospheric soundscapes. The music is often instrumental and/or orchestral, however if voices are present it is usually without lyrics. The listener isn’t actually required to “listen” to the dynamic performance as is the case with classical music. The music also won’t distract the listener or annoy parents with heavy guitars and bass. Lyrics can’t get stuck in your head like certain pop songs! This music style was developed predominantly by composers that write music for computer- and video games. They are required to write music that help listeners maintain mental toughness and concentration which thus helps the gamer to play for longer hours without losing focus. So why not use this kind of music to your advantage and listen to it while you study? A lot of study music is available in YouTube playlists.
2. Facebook Groups.
Facebook is probably one of the most distracting social media platforms, but a Facebook Group can help you get your schedule and priorities in order. You and your classmates can remind each other of due dates for assignments and tests. You can help each other by posting class notes, share new information on certain topics and discuss or share tricks on how to study for a certain subject. Even just to encourage each other can help tremendously! Know that you are all in the same boat. You have the same tasks to do and the same work to study. Remember that this group shouldn’t become a distraction. Always keep the topic relevant. Don’t joke around unnecessarily and don’t just expect one person to always do all of the work and the rest misuse their kindness!
Facebook is great for getting in touch with people that would have been very difficult to quickly get hold of prior to the social media phenomenon. For example, you can easily get in touch with the author (or his/her assistant or publishers) who wrote the textbook you use in class. You can ask them something about the textbook if necessary. Make sure your parents help you craft a well formulated letter before sending it. Never spam these individuals or organisations, and never write hateful words.
1. WhatsApp Groups.
WhatsApp Groups are great for quick communication in small groups. You can create a study group where you all motivate each other and easily remind each other of test dates and hand-in dates for assignments and homework. You can arrange a date, time and place to get together to work on group assignments, discuss the work or work out exemplar papers before a test. Your group can share links to websites, articles or other resources to help each other with work.
If you have a tutor or teacher that is willing to join a WhatsApp group that is specifically tailored to the subject at hand, it’s much easier to communicate or ask a question when you are busy studying. Disclaimer: Don’t bother your teacher with irrelevant messages – especially never during the evening after 19:30!
Other useful Apps for learners include:
Dropbox or Google Drive. It is excellent for sharing notes and other bigger files between friends and classmates. Remember that you can only share free files that are in public domain, or if you have permission from your teacher or the author. You shouldn’t commit plagiarism and distribute files that are copyright protected.
Twitter can be used to communicate directly with experts such as teachers, tutors, mathematicians, scientists etc. If you love economics, you can follow economists on Twitter, ask questions directly to them and learn first-hand from them.
Skype can be used to chat over video. You can have real-time audio-visual conversations, which is great news especially if you want to receive online tutoring sessions – it doesn’t even have to be related to schoolwork! An ingenious example of this is a South African high school chess champion that receives tutoring classes for chess with professional Russian chess players over Skype. The possibilities are endless!
Social media can add value to your life when you use it correctly. However, be cautious of the following 3 pitfalls:
1. Instant gratification.
Social media has created a system in which people expect instant gratification! If you don’t like an image or video you see – you simply scroll down, because there are thousands of other images and videos available. This isn’t good because your brain becomes saturated with unnecessary information. Our brains don’t have to concentrate or reflect on the content, because if we don’t like, understand or value it within a few split seconds, we know that there are always more content to stimulate us.
Take the time to put down your cell phone every once in a while. Learn how to sit quietly. Learn how to meditate to calm your mind. Studying and working hard to get good grades is a process you shouldn’t rush. Get comfortable with the idea that you have to study a certain amount of hours a day to reach your academic goals. Set out a schedule where you can reward yourself for the amount of work you do. Sit and study, without checking your phone or being distracted by the computer for at least 45 minutes. Then reward yourself with a 15 minute break. During your break you may go onto social media – but also try to do other fun things like walk outside in the garden, have a conversation with a friend, play with a ball or listen to a new song.
2. There is no such thing as multi-tasking.
There’s a Russian proverb that says, “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” This is true when it comes to productivity. When you do homework, but the TV is on in the room, your phone keeps getting messages, all while you’re scrolling through Instagram on your iPad, you won’t likely get the good grades you truly want!
Do one thing at a time! Before you start studying, tell your friends you won’t be with your phone for the next few hours or so and then put your phone away in your cupboard or in a different room so that there are no distractions. When you sit down, take three deep breaths and then when you begin, truly concentrate on your work. Tell yourself you only need to do one thing right now and that is to study this one chapter to the best of your abilities. When you study and you start to understand the work, you will start to enjoy the process. That’s when remarkable progress takes place.
3. Social media can steal your time.
How many times have you started to go through Facebook or other social media platforms, and when you look at the clock a good half an hour has disappeared? Social media can distract you from important things in your life. Social media can make you procrastinate and steal time from you which you can never get back! Be cautious of how much time you spend on social media and evaluate if you really benefit from spending that much time on those Apps. Remember it this way – no App is going to write your test for you, only you can do that! No App can study on your behalf or get good marks for you – only you have the power to make yourself study and to make yourself get good grades.
Social media can help you in many ways and to connect with people that are like-minded. Social media is helpful in many ways – from gaining new information to even inspiring us to study harder. However, staying productive in a social media-driven world can be difficult. Therefore we need to plan our days so that we don’t get distracted by it. “Productivity is never an accident. It is the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer.
Tell us about the social media platforms you are on. How do you benefit from it? Did social media allow you to find new ways to study and share information? Did you join social media groups that have assisted you in achieving your academic goals? If you only use social media to connect with family and friends or consider it only as a fun pastime activity, let us know how you prevent your time spent on social media from getting out of control.