We live in quite the social media age. If you are an “in-touch” teacher, you may be wondering how to incorporate social media into your classroom in a positive way. You may also be wondering how to maximize the interaction between you and the parents of your students (or maybe even the students themselves). School can be a place full of “extra stuff” like reminders, notes, forms, photos, and tons of parent-teacher communication. Social media is a way to strengthen those parent/teacher lines of communication while also keeping them in the loop. When I taught first grade, even some of my students had social media accounts*. So it’s something that you can use at basically any age for either your students or their parents. Here are some ways to use it to your advantage for both types of audience.
*I don’t advocate first graders having social media accounts, but it’s a fact. All of these suggestions below, however, are more appropriate for you to use with the parents of your students or with your students if you are a middle school/high school teacher.
[This is a fake account I created to show my college kiddos. I was demonstrating the power of this social media tool in the classroom. See the lock next to my name? That means it’s private, so only those who I confirm can see my tweets.]
Twitter is a great way to get direct messages to parents and students immediately. By signing up for a private Twitter account, you can have your parents or students subscribe to your Twitter feed to get reminders and updates. Then all you have to do is tweet from your computer or your mobile device when you have a reminder or a message to relay to them. This is also an invaluable tool in an emergency. The town I used to teach in was hit by a tornado during my first year there. Thank goodness we weren’t in school that day, but if we had been, I could have easily updated parents via Twitter that we were okay and were in our safe space. It’s also a great way to post links to your class newsletter or class blog for them to easily click on and refer to. (Follow me on Twitter @CJayne_Teach)
When I was in the classroom, I had a class blog, but to be honest, I would post the newsletter and would often neglect to post photos. It was a pain to upload them from my camera or my phone and I felt guilty that the parents weren’t seeing what awesome pics I took of their students in the classroom. If only I had created a private class Instagram account! Most teachers I know are snapping photos on their iPhones during an activity or lesson, when they want to take pics. How awesome would it be to upload a few during your planning or at the end of the day for the parents of your students to see? You could write a quick caption and allow for the parents to gain instant access to all of the fun! Genius. Plus, like Twitter, you can lock your account so you must approve people before they follow you. This would allow you to only give access to the appropriate people. (Follow me on Instagram @cjayneteach)
So if your parents or students aren’t tweeters or ‘grammers, don’t worry. I’m almost 100% sure that they have a Facebook account. Some teachers can opt to not do either of the first two options and put all of their reminders and photos directly into a private Facebook group. I like Facebook for the reason that you can created a “closed” group or a “secret” group. The difference is that both are private and people must be invited to join, however, a “secret” group would not show up on your NewsFeed or on your Timeline. A closed group may. So it can be extra secure, which is nice. (see image below)
Facebook is good because you can post entire albums full of photos and not just one at a time, like Instagram does. So if you took 95 pics at the pumpkin patch, go ahead and upload all of them! Also Facebook has some cool features in their groups like “Ask a Question” where you could poll your students. The “add an event” feature is where you could create a calendar event, such as the Valentines Day party, and it immediately gets added to the group members iCal. You can add files and documents so that if you need to quickly get a document to your parents (like a flyer you forgot to pass out or the newsletter) then you can upload it right to the group. And you can also add video which is fun!
The downside is that other members of the group can also post. I believe that you can disable this feature (and I would) so that you can have complete control over the content. Personally I think a Facebook group would give you the most subscribers, allow you to get the widest variety of content and media to them, and in the most compatible way. You can see an example of my page below. (And click here to like C. Jayne Teach on Facebook!)
I’ve mentioned this app before, but Remind 101 is a really awesome tool to use. We all know that I don’t recommend giving your cell phone number out. So this tool allows for you to communicate with your class via text message without actually giving out your number. Here’s how it works: the parents text a number (that is provided by Remind 101 and is NOT your actual number). They sign up by typing in your keyword (mine is @mrsverbic) and their full name, so you know who it is. Once you have a full list of subscribers, text away! They can get reminders and messages easily and immediately and this would also be really helpful in case of an emergency to get a hold of parents quickly. But the best part is that they don’t have access to your cell phone or your free time otherwise. 🙂
Here’s a sample of what Remind101 looks like on your phone:
I’m always anxious to hear how you use social media in the classroom. So please comment below with any good suggestions!