Our fifth graders have school-provided iPads, my fourth graders use Chromebooks for everything from composition writing to math fact practice and more than 40% of the third grade plays Minecraft. And those are just the things I know for sure. I can also tell you that 23 parents have asked to add me as a friend on Facebook since last August and 12 students on Instagram have requested to follow my private account.
It is clear that technology and social media have taken over the way we communicate, yet schools are often way behind the curve. Too often, teachers and school administrators fall into the old trap of the “Facebook will ruin your life because the internet is forever!” speech, and refuse to address the growing influence of social media on our students’ lives. What we all need to accept is that social media can be used as a powerful communication method in and beyond our classrooms.
Facebook for Teachers? Yes.
Euronews.com recently ran a story about the way schools abroad are incorporating social media into the classroom. It focused extensively on Ngee Ann Secondary School in Singapore, which has incorporated social media into everything from mathematics to home economics. The thing that I picked up on immediately was the use of Facebook to disseminate web links and other information amongst the students. At a past school, we created a private Facebook group for members of the debate team to share sources and discuss strategy in advance of the tournaments. Giving the students a social media outlet to communicate with their teammates allowed them to feel more comfortable voicing their opinions. The fact that they were not being asked to speak in class made it a low pressure situation.
Beyond Facebook for debate, I have seen or used all different forms of social media to facilitate student work and activities. I moderated a Model United Nations Conference where all the information was stored on Google Drive, and I have seen Instagram hashtags used for everything from #yearbooksubmission to #finalartportfolio. The students love it and the adults learn firsthand how much easier social media is to manage than a full paper inbox.
But Do the Parents Like It?
Social media isn’t just a great way to engage with your students on their level, it is also incredibly useful for communication between the school and the parent community. As I mentioned up top, plenty of parents are all about “the Facebook.” Furthermore, in my experience, they tend to pay a lot more attention to the things they see on Facebook, as opposed to, you know, that carefully crafted email you send out twice a week. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that you’re Facebook friends, as opposed to just members of the school community.
Recommended for YouWebcast: Growth at a Scale Up: How to Grow When You're No Longer a Startup
As with many forms of communication, social media necessitates a lot more finesse when you’re using it to engage with the parent community. So much finesse in fact, that Chicago Public Schools has a whole tool kit devoted to the subject. As with all parent – teacher communications, it is important to be respectful and choose your words carefully. The folks over at Edudemic have a nifty four point guide that incorporates Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and various blogging platforms.
Final Piece of Advice
If you’re a teacher and you want to get into the social media game, keep your personal and professional pages separate. You do not want any parents to see what you’re up to on the weekends.
So what does this mean for business owners hoping to use social media to their advantage? A lot.
Keep your private Facebook profile separate from your business page – and don’t use your business page to do private Facebooking (commenting on your family member’s photos, for example). Your business page should reach out to fans, B2B networking possibilities, and potential leads – not blur the lines between friends, family, and clients. But just as there are cautionary tales about using Facebook as a business, there are many more for choosing not to use it. Businesses who pay attention and find the best ways to reach their clients and potential leads will reap all the rewards of a smart social media presence.
Has your business had to deal with a Facebook or social media faux pas? Do you have guidelines for how to use social media to reach out?