Saturday, October 6, 2012

How I Use Social Media for My Students

Aside from our classroom and the daily interactions I have with my kids, and every other building kid within high-five reach, can you think of a more effective method than social media to inform, connect, and celebrate students?

I'm fortunate to work in a district that values teachers' judgement and allows them to balance the freedom of social media with their obligation to model a high level of professionalism. I am trusted to use the creativity that the various platforms offer and keep the student's best interests in mind.

If I taught in Missouri or NYC, I couldn't use social media  platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest to connect or celebrate with students and home partners. That's a shame. I understand the wariness of being online, I really do. Social media can be used to hurt and cause harm. It can be a dangerous and damaging forum. However, it's the user and how social media is used that's the real problem.

It's dangerous for children to cross the street, but we don't ban cars. It's important for adults to teach kids how to cross the street without getting hit. It's the same for social media.

If a teacher can't use social media in a responsible way with school aged children, then I don't think they should be a teacher. Move along Betty, I don't need you staining the profession with your poor choices.

Some of the ways that I've used social media with my students and their home partners.

  • I often engage home partners and students with the question of the day answer. Fun, mostly meaningless, but usually tied to what we are doing or have talked about in class. Sometimes a little cyrptic to foster the question, "what does this mean?"
  • Updates and reminders. Picture day, assemblies, book orders, cookie money, whatever. There is a lot going on in my kid's homes, if a tweet can help my parents remember something, I send it.
  • Our class has a 'Twitter job' whose responsibility it is to send out 140 descriptions of exciting or interesting things we are doing in class. 
  • I tweet out photos from things that we might be doing in class that day. Reading on the lawn, Science investigations, or Math explorations. Donut parties included.
  • If one of our classmates accomplishes something special or receives recognition. It absolutely gets a tweet.
  • My kids and home partners get to see responsible tweeting on my timeline. I have a positive digital footprint and model how you can use Twitter, without being a jerk or hurtful to others. That's important to me and important for them.
  • Update 10/2014 This year I started our own classroom Twitter account @LaSalleElem216 We now hand the handle to our class Twitter job. It has been a great thing for us. The Twitterer sometimes pokes fun at me, tweets inside jokes, but is almost always student originated. 


Facebook is an easy punching bag for the media when the forum is used to bully someone, inflict harm, or characterize it as the starting point for evil. Uninformed or non-involved parents  use the overblown danger as a reason to keep their children from the forum. That's a shame.

I use Facebook:
  • To share the great things we do in our classroom. From photos of student projects and mundane classroom going ons to school assemblies and events. Facebook makes it easy to post photos and give easy updates on what's going on in our classroom.
  • As another way to send out updates or reminders. The majority of my kid's households don't have internet access or email, but they do have Facebook. (smartphones). Facebook is just another communication conduit into my kids' homes.
  • To stay connected to my departing students and to establish a connection with next year's students. I created a page for Mr Johnson's gnome. The 'summer me' could be followed around as he moved through the summer. He kayaked, climbed mountains, ate donuts, helped Mr Johnson study, attended PD, and even walked his dog. Follow his exploits on Twitter as well @MrJohnsonsGnome
  • To share our school's first Science Fair and all of the great things the kids accomplished. I posted the events leading up to the exhibition, the exhibits, and the awards assembly.
  • To gauge the mood of my kids or gain an understanding of what is going on in their lives. I spend very little time 'crusing' my timeline, but if something comes across in a post that I can use to anticipate problems that might present themselves in my classroom or grade, I bank it. Friction between classmates usually show up on kids' timelines. Problems at home also show up and help me understand when I need to be a little more patient with outward expressions off frustrations that originate at home. Facebook statuses have helped me rearrange science partnerships, seating arrangements, or suggest trips to see our counselor.
  • To understand what's important to my students. Softball games, gymnastic meets, volleyball matches, football games, and family reunions. If it is an event that my kids love, they post it, and they love it when I ask them about what they love. I share the photos from those events as well.
  • To send a message to an absent student, that we missed them in class that day and that we need them back as soon as possible.
  • Share small inspirational quotes or thoughts. 
  • To let a student know that they are special and to let them know it's okay to feel bad about a broken heart or a failed athletic attempt. They need to know they matter.
It can be scary to put yourself and your thoughts out there, but I've found my blog to be a tremendous way to share the great things about kids and the things that I love about teaching and challenges that the profession can provide.

My kids blog too and love knowing that administrators, parents, and friends are their audience.

I write a Science Blog for our kids participating in the Science Fair to help them understanding the phases and have another resource available to them.

I share my Delicious bookmarks with students and home partners who might need information and resources to help their students in a particular area. I might not have everything that a student's home might need, but I may help them get started on the right path

Text Messaging

While not technically social media, I started using Remind 101 this year. It is an easy to use, easy sign up text messaging service that I use in combination with Twitter and FB to remind students and parents about important events and deadlines. Check 'em out.

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