When Ed Knight wants to find out what his six-year-old did in school, he can scroll the Twitter feed on his iPhone for clues to start a conversation with his quiet son, who sometimes holds back when recounting details of his day.
That’s because Evan and others in first-grade teacher Jodi Conrad’s class use Twitter to send out a weekly newsletters, update the days’ activities, and give parents reminders about upcoming programs.
Conrad’s class at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Glen Ellyn, Ill., is among a growing number that use social media and other technology to supplement lessons, even for very young students.
“These are tools that come standard in life right now,” said Conrad, 36, who controls the account and the messages that the class, as a group, delivers. “I do it outside of class, so why not do it inside.”
Her students also contribute to a classroom blog, make videos for a private YouTube account intended for parents, and write books using computer software.
Like many schools across the country, Glen Ellyn District 41 has equipped its school libraries with iPads, netbooks, and laptops that can be checked out. It also has a lab outfitted with desktop computers, said Christina Kellam, technology specialist at District 41.
Conrad and other teachers who use kid-friendly blogging programs and social media are finding the tools are becoming integral parts of their classrooms.
Conrad’s class tweeting sessions, which usually come at the end of the day for about 20 minutes, keep communication open with parents and help the kids learn typing, spelling, and reading, Conrad said. Getting to push the “tweet” button is also an exciting privilege.
“It’s kind of our class meeting at the end of the day,” Conrad said. “This is really great for reflection.”
Educators are realizing more and more that modern technology has a place in classrooms, especially since kids are motivated to use the tools, said David Vinca, founder of eSpark, a Chicago-based group that aims to personalize programs for iPad-equipped classrooms.