Shortly after Conti assumed the superintendency in Burlington, he expanded the district’s technology experimentation and social media policy, which Larkin said was very restrictive prior to Conti’s arrival.
“It has to start with the leaders in the schools embracing [social media] and modeling it, not just talking about it, and that trickles to the teachers, because eventually we want it to end up in the classroom,” Larkin said.
Along with its expanded social media policy, the district embraced Project 365, a popular concept in which schools post daily blog entries featuring a student, educator, parent, or other school-related idea or news.
Incorporating social media tools into classroom instruction has helped the district expand its reach and educational abilities, Larkin said.
“To be able to know where to find people and connect is one of the most important things we can teach our students to do,” he said. “If we can find out how the world is ticking and how things are changing from [using] social media tools outside of schools, I think it’s past time that we started embracing this tradition in our classrooms.”
He added: “Whether we are embracing these tools in our classrooms or not, most likely, your students are using Twitter.”
How Twitter can be used as a powerful educational tool
Larkin has many student followers on Twitter and follows those who follow him. He locked his account so that fellow Twitter users could not view the students’ accounts.
Twitter’s emergence gave the district the chance to impart a valuable lesson to students.
“We know that colleges are Google-searching our kids; we’re heard it first-hand from admissions officers,” Larkin said.
Larkin took actual Tweets that used foul language from students, made the users anonymous, and presented the tweets to students and asked them what they would think if those tweets popped up during a college admissions officer’s search.
Students were shocked to see how easily that information appeared online, he said, adding that many students didn’t know that unless they made their Twitter accounts private, anyone could view their Tweets—even if that person did not follow them on Twitter.