Kids are sick of Zoom too—so their teachers are getting creative

So it’s no wonder that teachers across the world are trying to spice up their virtual lesson plans by meeting their students where they spend their free time and attention: on social media platforms and games. Subreddits devoted to education and teaching are frequently peppered with questions about how to integrate games and social media into teaching. Minecraft, the popular city-building video game, has a launch page devoted to teachers who want to use the game in their classrooms.

Beyond pedagogy, teachers are seeking to rekindle their connection with their students. One kindergarten teacher told the New York Times that TikToks keep her students “engaged and looking at me.” This fall’s hottest breakout mobile game, Among Us, has been integrated into lessons as well, with one student telling the Times that it can “help students to be emotionally patient with their classmates and understand different perspectives.”

Buyssens says his students are engaged and active in class discussions, which occur in the chat while he’s on Instagram Live. If a student misses class, no big deal: he uploads notes to be saved as stories, each slide carefully done in a template to optimize space in portrait mode.

“For me, it’s very important that it’s not a gimmick,” Buyssens says. “The students will see through it if they know you’re just doing it to get them on Instagram. You have to show that the subject you are teaching works on Instagram or TikTok or Twitch.”

Using Instagram might seem logical for Buyssens: he’s a millennial teaching Gen Z students how to use social media for advertising and creative strategy.

But many teachers remain skeptical about fully embracing platforms that haven’t conventionally been associated with work or school. A survey conducted in June by the Education Week Research Center found that 63% of English teachers and 57% of math teachers considered Zoom and Google Docs to be effective. When it came to video games, however, educators were more wary: 27% of English teachers and 46% of math teachers reported them to be effective.

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