High Schools Need to Use Social Media to Spur STEM Engagement

More high schools need to use Twitter to engage students in STEM.

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William Broman is a biomedical engineering major at George Washington University. He can be reached on Twitter @bromanw.

In our private lives, we use Twitter and Facebook every day. Yet, in a society as technologically advanced as the United States, it seems that we are not using social media to their maximum potential in education. During my last two years of high school, social media and new technology were just beginning to be used in science and math classes.

Over the last four years, things have improved, but we still have a long way to go. Grosse Pointe Public Schools, my home school system in a suburb of Detroit, has been increasingly using Twitter and Google+ in classes.

In mid-March, when I was home for spring break, I went back to my old high school. What I saw was awesome--the physics teachers were putting on the "cardboard boat regatta," in which students compete to design and build the best cardboard boat. What was unique about this event was the integration of Twitter. As someone who was not involved in the project, I was able to follow the progress of the boat building on Twitter when students used hashtags. It was evident from reading the tweets that the use of hashtags and Twitter had generated much more excitement for the event.

STEM education lacks excitement for students who have only a mild interest in the subject matter. There is no better way to generate excitement for science and math--subjects that can be seen as boring--than by fostering competition through social media.

Imagine a scenario in which students from different school districts across the country are competing on Twitter to see who can build the best cardboard boat. It is only a matter of time before someone tweets to the U.S. Navy or a shipbuilder asking for design help. Perhaps a struggling student who is not interested in science is then E-mailed by a Navy engineer about his/her project. This may spark the interest necessary to keep that student involved in STEM subjects throughout high school and into college.

Sitting through lectures where professors teach the different aspects of engineering is boring. There is no interaction with other students in class on a regular basis, there are few group projects, and there is little group discussion, because science and math problems are often seen as having only one "right" answer.

Higher education, including my school, and businesses are using Twitter and Facebook to communicate effectively with students or customers and solve problems--it's time for high schools to do the same.