As a teacher, does the thought of social media in the classroom make you excited? Anxious? Or maybe a combination of the two? It’s natural to feel both, but as education professionals, we can’t forget that our students and their parents are already on social media sites — and they’re ready to engage with you.
Our small, rural district in Eudora, Kan., encourages the use of social media by anyone who represents a classroom, sports team, student club, or other group because we believe there are valuable opportunities there for the taking. We can:
- Use social media, video, and blogs as teaching tools;
- Teach students safe and courteous online behavior;
- Communicate with parents through the real-time, content-rich format that social media provides; and
- Allow and encourage others to support our efforts, celebrate our successes, grieve our losses, and sometimes even challenge us to do better.
Our district’s leaders are the first to admit that jumping into the social media pool as a professional can be nerve-wracking at times. To help overcome the risks, we use a simple set of procedures and policies designed to boost our teachers’ confidence and help them navigate any challenges that may arise online.
Read on to see what our teachers are doing and how social media can add an extra level of engagement to your classroom. For more examples, visit www.eudoraschools.org/socialmedia.
Becky Topil, 1st grade
When Becky Topil first started her Facebook closed group for her 1st graders’ parents in fall 2012, she wasn’t sure what to expect. But as it took off, she found it to be an invaluable tool as a classroom teacher.
“I upload newsletters, pictures, and even QuickTime videos from our room,” said Topil, who has been teaching for 32 years. “I use events to help our busy families know what activities are coming up. This year, my students told me that their parents wished they could see what a school day looked like, so we posted photos of our daily schedule in action. I was very impressed that my little 1st graders had these conversations with their parents!”
She acknowledged, however, that Facebook can’t be the only communications tool for teachers.
“I have parents who choose not to participate in social media, and we have families without Internet,” she said. “I still send home paper notes and use email, and each year is different.”
Keeping up with the different communication tools can sometimes be challenging, but Topil emphasized that the benefits of social media are worth the extra work.
“I get so many positive comments from parents,” she said. “In all my years of teaching, I have never had better communication with parents. I feel like we are one big, happy family!”
Kyle Stadalman, 5th grade
Each afternoon, followers of Kyle Stadalman’s 5th-grade Facebook page are treated to an update of the day’s activities at school, courtesy of a student writer. Not only do these updates help students practice summarization skills, they also empower parents to ask specific questions about their child’s day.
But when Stadalman really wants to get noticed, he has found photos to be the key.
“If I need to send out a reminder about an event,” he said, “I will have a student write it on a piece of paper and then post a picture of the student holding the note. Pictures always get viewed by the most people.”
A complete version of this article appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of Educational Horizons.