Gone are the days when the teacher-student interaction was constrained to the classroom. Danielle’ Rowe is one of a new breed of South African teachers who are finding new avenues to reach their pupils via social media. Danielle’ believes that the classroom is a space in which people should study how to learn from every other situation they are faced with. “Education and the classroom are not always synonymous,” she says.

Currently a teacher at Dainfern College, Danielle’s passion for impacting the lives of young people was realised while she was student at Monash South Africa where she first studied International Relations and then completed her Post Graduate Certificate in Education. Danielle’ helped to establish the University’s uLwazi Programme, a Monash Saturday School initiative. The aim of the porgramme was to provide academic tutoring from Monash South Africa’s students to local, under-resourced schools.

Danielle’ says that in every classroom setting, be it as a formally employed teacher or as a tutor in her University volunteer capacity, she has always used multimedia tools such as video clips and photos to teach.

“I am lucky that Dainfern College is very supportive and involved in learning through technology,” says Danielle’. She explains that the school has trained its primary school learners to work with a program called Edmodo, an online ‘class room’, or simplified Facebook. All Danielle’s high school students are in Edmodo class groups and she posts all their notes and work there. The students and her interact via posts, poll questions and mini quizzes based on the work at hand. There are media folders where extra videos are stored images,” she says.

Danielle’ says the online forums have produced discussion from certain learners that she has not experienced in person. “I am able to identify students in class and then encourage them on the social classroom forum without forcing them.”

Danielle’ shares some useful tips for teachers wanting to use social media to enhance classroom learning:

Manners still exist even in cyber space. Email etiquette is vitally important in today’s society.

Maintain teacher-learner boundaries.

Be consistent in posting links and discussion forums, video clips, poll quizzes etc. To create a sense that as much as you are physically always in your classroom you are as definitely online.

In the same way as you would react to homework not done, and books not handed in, a lack of interaction on the online forums should be treated in the same way so that learners realise they have to do it, and are being assessed. This will help them in the future where universities and the work world often rely on virtual communication. It is the individual’s responsibility to check posts, and emails: it is a formal way of communication today.

Have fun: humour is something that can span the gap between different generations. It shows we all like a break and to laugh, and makes things memorable