Memes, Emojis, and GIFs, Oh My! Teachers Tell How They Use Social Media

By Madeline Will — August 30, 2017 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Most teachers think that social media and texting have a negative effect on their students’ grammar and spelling skills, a new survey finds—but many educators still turn to social media tools to better relate to their students.

The survey, which was conducted by YouGov on behalf of, asked 801 teachers—in elementary grades through postgraduate schools—about their views on social media and pop culture in the classroom.

Half of the teachers surveyed said that social media helps them better understand the pop culture references students are making in class. And in an effort to meet students where they are, 37 percent of teachers have used memes, emojis, and GIFs (animated images) to help make a point or teach a lesson.

Still, 73 percent of teachers think that social media and texting negatively affect their students’ grammar and spelling skills. The survey also found:

  • Two-thirds of teachers don’t believe most of their students think grammar and spelling are important. (More high school teachers agreed with this statement than any other grade levels, including college.) And 32 percent of teachers said their students most often struggle with grammar, followed by meaning and comprehension.
  • At the same time, most teachers don’t prioritize grammar and spelling when grading student work. Teachers care more about students’ comprehension, and a quarter of non-English teachers don’t even penalize students for incorrect spelling and grammar in written work, although 88 percent of teachers are irritated when students misuse basic words, like their, they’re, and there.
  • Seventy-five percent of teachers are bothered when students use popular slang or “text speak” in their work.

Despite teachers’ concerns about social media creeping into students’ academic work, it’s not going away any time soon. And some educators are taking the approach: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

A high school student once wrote an essay for Education Week, saying that her favorite teachers use social media. One math teacher, she wrote, created her own Instagram page where she posts homework assignments and things she taught in class. “That way, when kids are checking their feeds, homework assignments and reminders will inevitably show up on the screen,” the student wrote, adding that other teachers have also used Facebook pages for upcoming projects or planned online chats to discuss books, in lieu of traditional book reports.

Last year, I wrote a guide to teachers using Snapchat for instructional purposes. Some teachers reported using the disappearing-picture-and-video app to share reminders of an upcoming homework project or a test, as a bite-sized lesson, or as a way to make real-world connections within the curriculum.

I asked teachers on Twitter to share memes or the GIFs they’ve used in the classroom:

They responded with fitting GIFs and memes:

Another teacher, Julie Harding, added that she has her students make their own memes about the lessons that characters learn in novels and stories.

Teachers, tweet me with memes and gifs you use in class, or post them in the comments below.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.