Smart phones might be getting the green light in more schools around the country, but social networking is still getting the yellow in many schools: Parents are worried about bullying, teacher-student online relationships are questioned, and school security can be compromised all too easily, some critics fear.
To understand how social media, an almost integral part of our current culture, can benefit K-12 schools and districts, we asked eSchool News readers: “Name one way you use social networking in your school/district. Or, if you can’t/don’t currently use social networking, how would you like to?”
From professional development to providing real-world examples of mathematics, readers say it’s time to make the best of what can be a valuable resource for education. Here are some of the top ways they’re using social networking in their schools.
How have social media enhanced your own district, school, or classroom environment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
10. Professional development
“In my professional role, I’ve become very quickly reliant on Twitter and Facebook to inform me of trends and Web 2.0 tools I should be considering using with students/sharing with staff. For the most part, social networking is blocked in our district, and it’s frustrating to not have access to ed-tech blogs I’d like to check with on school time.” —Marcia Dressel, K-5 librarian, Osceola, Wis.
9. Community outreach
“At my school we use it to promote various activities, gain feedback, or start a conversation for something, and sometimes [for] recognition of a particular group, teacher, etc. We never use full names for students or tag them in photos. … I think it is a great tool for connecting with our parents who are already participating in social media.” —Shannon Bosley
8. Course assignments
“We have some teachers using schoology.com to leverage social networking features in the classroom. With Schoology, we can create a private social network focused around course curriculum. Teachers can post assignments and create online assessments as well. The site is free to use, is intuitive, and works well.” —Brian C. Dvorak, technology TSA, curriculum and professional learning, school support services, Fresno Unified School District
7. Parent communication
6. Distance learning
“We use social media in two distinct ways: (1) As a communication tool between the district and parents. We are a small district, but over one-third of our families ‘like’ our Facebook page. This gives us a great tool to communicate pretty quickly with a good portion of our parents. (2) For classroom use—a teacher who taught a distance-ed class for our school and three others set up a Facebook page to foster communication between the remote students and the students she taught physically.” —George Sorrells, technology facilitator, Winneconne Community School District
“I use Twitter to do an end-of-the-unit review. I tweet various topics, people, and dates for AP U.S. History.” —Ann Wright, assistant principal, Archbishop O’Hara High School, Kansas City
4. Cross-cultural communication and language learning
“A few years ago, when I used to work in … a Greek private elementary school, we cooperated with several schools from foreign countries, such as Holland, England, France, and Sweden, and used social networking in order to communicate with each other and break down the distance and language barrier. We used English as a means of the aforementioned communication and completed several activities such as writing chain stories and letters offering personal information in English, and arranged to meet in person with our students once a year in a different host country. This activity materialized with the great contribution of the internet, as it was our only means of contact. It has been a great experience and assisted young students in [becoming] communicative and confident in using English, as well as the internet, in [performing] hands-on-activities.” —E. Mantzana
3. Collaborative learning
“Our district is using the paid version of Gaggle.net this year with the middle school and high school students and teachers. This online social media [platform] includes a social wall, very similar to Facebook, along with an eMail account, a digital online locker, blogging, … [and] many other available items. One of the main reasons we went with this medium is because of the tight security it offers our students, by using filters for slang words, curse words, hate words, porn, and more. It is a medium to teach the students how to use social media in a professional manner to help prepare them for the marketplace upon employment. The students enjoy having the social aspect of it, and the teachers are appreciative of the means to acceptably and safely contact the students. Also, the teachers can upload assignments into a specific drop box that only their students can see, where the students complete the assignment and submit it back to the teacher, totally without the need for printing anything.
“The teachers are also very appreciative of having access to YouTube through Gaggle, with the filters that are in place—they can show just about any education video without being blocked. Because it is a cloud-based program, anyone can get to their account anywhere there is internet [access], so students can access their social wall at home, as well as their homework assignments. Files can be uploaded to their digital locker and shared and worked on collaboratively, so the need to be in the same room together at all times is eliminated. As teachers create “classes” within the program, it concurrently creates a class social wall for the students enrolled in that class, where they can talk with each other, post pics, message each other, and more. So far, it has been a very positive experience for all our users.” —LeAnn Waldie, instructional technology specialist, Godley Independent School District, Texas
2. Networking with colleagues
“Our college is located in Queensland, Australia, and we are fortunate to have a one-to-one [computing] program for our students from year 4 to year 12 and for all of our staff. The power of the Personal Learning Network that our staff tap into would be impossible without the global interactions and connections our teachers have made through social networking tools. We encourage our staff to be at least active ‘followers’ on Twitter–and have established valuable networks for our teaching teams. In a recent Modern Foreign Language Teachers’ workshop, one of our team sent out a tweet inviting practitioners to share their expertise. We were amazed at the response we received, and without as so much as a blink of the eye–we switched into Skype mode and there was a ‘new’ face in our workshop–sharing their ideas and success stories from the U.K. We have just finished our review of our Strategic Plan, and we have indicated as one of our goals for 2012–the expansion of Personal Learning Networks for all of our staff harnessing the power of social networking.” —Jan MacNamara
1. Integrating real-world applications into teaching
“Social networking is an excellent real-world example of discrete mathematics. Students can post a joke and then track the vertex edge graph that results. The graph can be used to make inferences about popularity, outgoing personalities, and levels of friendship. Tracking the joke as a tree may also allow you to make inferences about natural communities, cliques. This document is one way we have used social networks to make mathematics meaningful.” —Mary Hosten
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