Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

November 14, 2011

Introduction to Using Tumblr in the Classroom


I know what you are thinking: "Tumblr?! We're just figuring out Facebook for the classroom and now we have to figure out another social network? No way!"

I know, I know...it is a lot to ask. It is so tough to stay on top of the ever changing and new technologies. But the fact is as more and more adults get on Facebook, less and less teenagers will spend their time on there. Facebook becomes less cool with every mom posting her latest Farmville update.

So many teens have headed over to other social networks and blogging platforms like Tumblr. In fact, I was shocked by these numbers from a recent Nielsen report.

Based on the amount of time people spend on each social network or blogging platform, Tumblr ranks #3:



The Growth of Tumblr:


Teens and Tumblr

How does Tumblr stack up against the other social media sites for younger ages?

The percentage may seem small compared to the other groups, but when you consider 2-17 actually only includes around 13-17 year olds or a span of five years, the percentage is striking.

Teens love Tumblr because of the amount of customization they can create. Their Facebook profiles look like everyone else's profile, but their Tumblr pages uniquely suit them. Consider what venture capitalist, Fred Wilson, said (source Socialistic.com):

“My daughter came home from college on Thursday night and showed me all of her friend’s Tumblrs. All the cool kids have them at her school now. Had nothing to do with me. I can assure you of that. They use Facebook as a utility. They check Facebook when they wake up and check it before they go to bed. But their profile on Facebook looks just like everyone’s profile. A Tumblr is self expression.”

Using Tumblr in the Classroom

I am pretty active on social media sites. I love Twitter (@jareddees) and I'm now all about Google+ (+Jared Dees), but I haven't quite figured out Tumblr. I joined the service about a year ago and didn't touch it until preparing for this article. I did some experimentation and research to offer some tips below for using the service for educational purposes. You can see what I have posted recently on my Tumblog: jareddees.tumblr.com.

Consider incorporating Tumblr into the classroom in the following ways:

Questions and Answers

In Tumblr, you can ask a question that anyone can answer. Students can go on and answer your questions to give you a quick idea of how well they learned material or to assess prior knowledge.

Reblogging

One of the most unique features of Tumbrl is reblogging. Reblogging is a simple way to share great ideas from other people's Tumblr blogs. If you like the content and want to reshare it, just click the reblog button.

Using Tags

Like Twitter, Google+, and blogs you can add tags to your posts. Create a unique tag (#mrdoeassignment1) and have students post information related to that topic or question. Gather and discuss the various links, quotes, videos, etc. in class and discuss the most meaningful and helpful information.

Share Music

Students can share music about a certain topic. Have them search for or upload songs related to a topic you are discussing. Other students in the class can experience and comment on the music themselves. You can also have them upload Christian music for meditation or praise and worship during class.

Create a Class Blog

Although I haven't done this yet, you can create a group blog using Tumblr. Mashable gives a good tutorial on this. I can see multiple classes or sections of a course you teach sharing content between one another. You could turn this into a fun group project as well.

Getting Started with Tumblr

It is easy and free to sign-up, but it takes a little while to "get it." Get to know the tools by:

  1. Sign up
  2. Go to your Dashboard.
  3. Click "Explore Tumblr"
  4. Click on the Education tag and scroll through and start following and reblogging people's content.
  5. Click on a tag like #edtech or #teachers to see what people are sharing. Or go for a religious theme like #Catholic.

At the very least you are bound to find some new kinds of content and teaching advice from the educational community on Tumblr.

Warning: Like any social network, sexual content can be an issue. There are unfortunate posts with inappropriate images on Tumblr that can be found while exploring the various Tumblogs.

Comments

1 Ruthie Hurley

Nov. 16, 2011
I don't know if you've used or seen edmodo.com, but it is an online tool that I have been using to connect students. Students in a service class are using it to write about their service experiences and reply to one another, so class time can be used to discuss their experiences through the lens of social justice. What I like about it is that it looks like facebook, and allows for dialogue threads similar to facebook, but without the risk of inappropriate content. It is a closed community, but students can link to outside sources, attach documents, etc. The closed community is important to respcet the dignity of those served and partnered with through this class. I would be interested to hear how other teachers are using Tumblr and others sites.

2 Jared Dees

Nov. 16, 2011
Ruthie, yes I have heard of some teachers who love Edmodo. I think you are exactly right about having a closed community. I'm also glad to read that you have a specific project that the students are using for the website. I think teachers who are new to this kind of technology can learn from this: start with just one project and expand from there. Thanks for sharing this!

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