When schools closed, many students felt overwhelmed and confused by online learning. But why? Why would a generation born with the internet as a constant companion struggle so much with staying engaged online?

One answer might be that adult teachers and their younger students use the internet differently. According to a Pew Research study from 2018, about 95% of teens in the U.S. own a smartphone, their favorite online platforms being Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat. A more updated study might also include the newest teen obsession, TikTok. Students are not internet experts. They simply speak a unique internet language: the language of social media.

How can teachers use this language to increase the accessibility of our online assignments? Here are ten online resources that use students’ knowledge about social media to boost engagement online, encourage collaboration, and improve teacher-student interaction.

1. Create an interactive sharing wall with Padlet.

10 Online Learning Tools That'll Give Your Lessons a Fun Social Media Feel_Padlet

Padlet is an online sharing board resembling a collaborative classroom poster or social media wall. Settings for the wall incorporate teacher control options, including options to filter out inappropriate student language. Depending on the Padlet settings, students can post as well as “like,” comment, or reply to other students’ posts.

Padlet is perfect for student collaboration and sharing, providing a sense of interaction and student-to-student engagement to online learners.

2. Have a discussion made of video clips using Flipgrid.

10 Online Learning Tools That'll Give Your Lessons a Fun Social Media Feel_Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a customizable, teacher-controlled video sharing platform that resembles Instagram or TikTok. Students can access the teacher’s Flipgrid through a number code or a QR scan. For more information on setup, click here.

Meet your students by assigning an “All About Me” video. Introduce a concept and have students discuss prior knowledge through clips. Engage students in debate by requiring them to take a stand on a controversial topic. Anything that requires students to talk, collaborate, or discuss can be enhanced with this resource.

3. Hook elementary and middle schoolers with videos from Big Think.

10 Online Learning Tools That'll Give Your Lessons a Fun Social Media Feel_Big Think

Big Think is a reliable resource for short videos and articles that interest students. Teachers can give students access to particular videos via link.

Use the 3-5 minute videos to introduce a unit, engage students in a topic, or teach students through an expert. Ask students to write or draw about what they heard. Have students respond by journaling. There are many ways to use this YouTube-like resource!

4. Use Sgrouples to set up a safe social media experience for your online classroom.

10 Online Learning Tools That'll Give Your Lessons a Fun Social Media Feel_Scrouples

Sgrouples is a customizable social media platform designed to maintain the privacy and safety of users. Teachers can create their social media groups with an account on the site. They can invite students to join specific groups, all monitored by the teacher.

5. Develop creative assignments that foster abstract thinking with Meme Generator.

10 Online Learning Tools That'll Give Your Lessons a Fun Social Media Feel_Meme generator

Meme Generator is a public website that enables users to put their own words on common internet memes. Make your own memes using the site to hook students for an online lesson.

Have students create a meme to represent something from your course content. If you want to be really fancy, have students share their memes on a Padlet wall so that they can see what others have made.

A note of caution: You will need to set expectations ahead of time about appropriate types of images and topics for the memes.

6. Start meaningful discussions with high schoolers using TED Talks.

10 Online Learning Tools That'll Give Your Lessons a Fun Social Media Feel_Ted Talk

TED Talk videos are 15-20 minutes talks on a wide variety of relevant topics given by experts in their field. Teachers can easily send video links to students.

Especially appropriate for older students, TED Talks are simple but powerful ways to help students think deeply about a topic. Assign a TED Talk to be watched and responded to, or have students explore TED Talks and find one to share with the class. Who says videos can’t make you smarter?

7. Create a modern, aesthetic, user-friendly teaching website with WordPress.

WordPress is a user-friendly web design platform. Using the WordPress templates to create a simple, beautiful, and organized site, students learning online can more easily navigate your online courses. No more of those crammed, neon sites in Times New Roman with too many hyperlinks!

Note: Only make your own website if this is how your school is doing online learning. Adding a website to another universal platform for your school, such as Google Classroom, can be confusing for students.

8. Increase communication with students and parents through the Remind App.

The Remind App is an app designed for educators to improve teachers’ at-home communication with students and their families. Teachers, students, and parents can download the app on their respective devices.

By operating via phone, this app puts your voice in your students’ pocket. Use it to invite students to live chat meetings, or remind students of assignments through easy links from Google Classroom and other learning platforms. Special text options also allow you to foster group text discussions.

9. Inspire students to write about their lives and interests using Blogger.

Blogger is a free, customizable blogging platform. The site’s blog formats are customizable and user friendly.

With this Tumblr-like resource, personalize the writing process for your students through blogging. Blogging is a great way for students to express interests and practice sharing their stories meaningfully. Create a blog, and invite your students into your classroom blogging community. Journaling just got cool!

10. Foster an inviting online learning environment with Bitmoji stickers.

Bitmojis are personalized avatars made popular by Snapchat. Anyone can design a Bitmoji of themself on the Bitmoji app. Add the Bitmoji keyboard as a Chrome extensionfor the ability to add Bitmoji stickers to emails and other online activity.

Many teachers use Bitmojis to spruce up their classrooms, but Bitmojis can be just as fun and helpful for online learners. Award virtual stickers to assignments, and insert Bitmojis into your emails to keep those parent-teacher interactions human.

A final note: Many of these resources require internet access, and some require a smartphone. Always keep equity in mind when mandating student participation!

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10 Online Learning Tools That'll Give Your Lessons a Fun Social Media Feel