Avoiding the pitfalls of social media in school

The drawbacks of social media are well-documented—like anonymous trolls posting negative comments just to spark controversy—and social media in school is no different.

However, says Jamie Knowles, Senior Manager of Educator Professional Learning Programs at Common Sense Media, social media also has the ability to help users share their stories and shed a positive light on their activities.

In his presentation, “Educators and Social Media: Avoiding the Pitfalls,” Knowles discusses some challenges of using social media in school–but also discusses the positive ways schools are using it to educate and communicate with their families.

Strategies and considerations for social media in school

In addition to negative commentary, Knowles acknowledges other challenges to adopting social media in school and for education.


3 strategies to reduce school avoidance

Procrastination is something we all experience. Whether it’s studying for an exam, completing a college essay, or finishing a social studies project, all students will inevitably find themselves procrastinating at some point in their academic careers. Delaying the completion of work because you’d rather go outside and play, or because you have writer’s block, or because you’d rather engage in social media, are not feelings that require intense intervention. Families may need to give gentle reminders about the importance of completing work, but when does procrastination go from a simple academic growing pain, to school avoidance?

Avoidance and procrastination, on the surface, may appear to be one in the same. Procrastination always plays hand-in-hand with the understanding that whatever the task may be, it will get done, eventually, and usually, on time. Avoidance is more of a commitment, a stubbornness that the work won’t be done now, or later. A school-avoidant student will continue to miss classes indefinitely and assignments will remain incomplete until term’s end.

School avoidance is a symptom of anxiety. It’s the inability to face school triggers that makes anxious students unable to go to class or complete work. Triggers may include social interactions, academic pressures, or fears of failure. Regardless, it can be overwhelming for some students to face any one, or all of these things, that avoidance becomes a coping strategy. But with school avoidance comes lost instruction, poor grades, and exacerbated symptoms. Anxiety has become so prominent in schools, that educators often find themselves establishing singular, concurrent expectations for each and every student in their classroom.


How we removed barriers to extracurriculars


Iowa City Community School District serves more than 14,000 students across 30 schools

Biggest challenge:

While it’s known that participating in extracurricular activities benefits students’ academic, social, and emotional development, there are obstacles that prevent participation in—and even discovery of—extracurriculars, especially for low-income and minority students.

There are many after-school and summer programs available for students in the Iowa City area, but hurdles such as cost, awareness, language/cultural barriers and transportation were interfering with participation. Students were missing out on the enriching diversity of ideas and social interaction that come with those opportunities.


To assist low-income students, we established a Community Education Fund that provides approximately $55,000 each year to support the costs associated with after-school and summer programs. These scholarships provide students funds for transportation and participation fees. Parent organizations, booster clubs, and donations also help with these costs.

Additionally, we have Student & Family advocates who support families with a special focus on those who are from another country (approximately 7 percent of district students are immigrants). These advocates assist families with navigating the culture of American schools by helping them understand what extracurricular opportunities are available and directing them to sources of funding inside and outside of the district.

We also doubled down on our communication about programming. The primary tool we deployed is a service called Peachjar, which is a cloud-based platform that distributes important updates and information about community resources to parents in the form of digital flyers. We turned to this tool after a survey of parents showed us that 95 percent of our parents had access to web-based media through smartphones or computers in their homes.

Awareness of extracurriculars was lacking when we previously printed flyers and sent them home in students’ backpacks because the information rarely made its way to parents. Similarly, when we posted information on our websites, parents weren’t proactive about going online and searching for it. Digital flyers streamlined information-sharing from start to finish so it was easier for everyone to discover enrichment opportunities.

We also use Peachjar’s ADA feature to ensure that all content is WCAG compliant and its multiple-page flyer capability to ensure content is communicated in multiple languages to accommodate our multicultural school populations. In home languages, parents can better understand exactly what a program is about and make a clear choice when deciding to sign up their student.

Lessons learned:

  • There is great value for students in using school technology that is not directly applied in the classroom.
  • As the school community changes in diversity, size and interest, it’s critical to actively strive for inclusive and proactive communication.
  • Student diversity does not equal opportunity diversity. It’s on districts to explore, identify and ultimately connect students to new people, programs and ideas beyond their school walls.

Next steps:

  • Continue sharing extracurricular opportunities in an accessible format to engage as many students and families as possible.
  • Ensure that there is adequate access to programming as our student population evolves over the years.
  • Listen to what students and families want to be doing outside of school and actively seek to connect them with those opportunities.

12 tools for courage and SEL in the classroom

Building SEL in the classroom requires face-to-face interaction, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character and SEL in the classroom and at home.

Courage is a big component of SEL, and courage is taking on challenges even when there’s risk. It’s also speaking up for what’s right even if there’s opposition, and acting on your convictions.

While some tools focus specifically on courage, the websites and apps that you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote bravery, too. You don’t have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL in the classroom. Below, we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating courage and life skills-building into your content classroom.


6 summer tips for teachers, from teachers

Test prep and antsy kids–the sounds and feelings of summer are fast approaching. As a result, teachers are flooded with last-minute to-dos while working to ensure their students are well-prepared for their next year of classes, all which can feel overwhelming. But a list of advice and summer tips for teachers can help everyone prepare.

We asked some of our own teachers what tips they have used to help ease their school to summer transition. From lesson planning for the next year to administering student surveys, these six summer tips for teachers may be helpful for you, too.

6 great summer tips for teachers

1. Elizabeth Munoz, English Teacher and Ed Tech Coach at Leuzinger High School
I survey my current students about activities/lessons they loved or disliked during the year. I do this because it really gives me a chance to revise my lessons for next year over the summer, always with my students in mind and eliminating the need to guess or experiment.