Monday, October 5, 2015

Social Media in the Classroom

I’m in my 9th year of teaching and one thing that I’ve learned each year is just how much each year is absolutely nothing like the last. There’s no such thing as taking out “last year’s plans”, changing the date and coasting through the year. Education evolves constantly and I find it imperative for teachers to try and evolve with it.

This year I’ve made it a goal of mine to try new things in the classroom. Whether it’s lessons, technology, etc., I want to push myself in order to see what does and does not work with my class. One of my main focuses this year has been on using technology, specifically social media, to not only teach my students, but also to keep the parents in my class in the loop with what we’re doing.

In years past, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with communication. This often leads to lots of parent questions, confusion, and disconnection. With between 25 and 30 kids, it’s very easy to lose track of time and get bogged down with other things we’re doing. I want to share with you some of the amazing new social media and technology tools that I’m using in my classroom that have helped to make this one of the best years of my career.

I first heard of Periscope this summer at the Teachers Pay Teachers conference in Vegas. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an app that allows you to do a live broadcast and people can watch what you’re doing. They can’t talk back to you, but they can type comments that you can see and show they like what you’re doing by tapping the screen to send colorful hearts. The video is also available for 24 hours in case someone misses the live feed. It seemed like a great way to market TpT products and share ideas with other teachers, but as I got into the classroom in August, it dawned on me that I could use this with my kids. I created a class account, gave the name to the parents, and told them to follow me. By the second or third weke of class, there were a few moments in class where my kids were working so hard and I wanted those parents to see it. I quickly opened the Periscope app, selected the parents I wanted to see it (I’ll explain this in a bit) and within seconds, I had parents “watching” their kids work.

Over the last 2 months, I have been occasionally using Periscope to share experiences such as presentations, a Junior Great Books discussion, kids playing in PE, reminding them of the Book Fair, and even demonstrating how we do our Number Talks. I also did a live broadcast at Orientation Night for any parents who were unable to attend. I had several paresnts watching it from other states while they were on business trips. I finally found a way to include everybody even if they can’t physically be there. I have my Assistant Principal as a follower, too, which allows me to show what I’m doing in my classroom beyond just a few walkthroughs and formal observations. I have had so many positive comments from parents about how they feel like they can finally “see” what happens during the day, especially because their kids usually say that they did nothing at school. It also gets my students to be on their best behavior because they know their parents are watching!

How to Make it Private
One of my first concerns when I signed up for Periscope was ensuring the privacy of my students. I did some research before broadcasting and found that Periscope has an option where you can privately broadcast to specific followers. Here’s how you do it:
Periscope has really enhanced the level of communication that I have with parents in regards to curriculum. Allowing them “into” our classroom has become so much fun and opened so many more doors to discussing what’s happening at school with their child.

Facebook can be a difficult tool to use at school depending on your area due to privacy concerns. Many people do not feel comfortable being on Facebook and sharing information, but I have been on it since 2004 and it has become such an integral part of my life that I wanted to find a unique way to use it to help me with school. After a parent mentioned starting a class Facebook group to share information, I did a little more research on the site and realized that I could make a completely private, closed group in which people have to request to be added to the group and I have to approve them. This allows the information that is in there to be kept among just our class of parents.

I have used our class Facebook page to share fun videos, pictures of the kids working, articles about education, reminders about upcoming events, etc. It’s also a great way for parents to communicate with each other and share pictures from our class events and field trips. It’s so quick and easy that I just love it so much more than having to send out an e-mail to everybody to get information across.

Class Dojo
This year I’m improving my level of communication about behavior by integrating Class Dojo into our daily routine. I have set up many different positive and negative awards in order to have documented information on behavior as well as an open line of communication with parents. Instead of having to spend lunch writing an e-mail about an incident that happened, I can log the incident into Class Dojo and the parents can see it. There’s also a feed similar to Facebook where you can share pictures and comments, as well as private and group messaging for quick and easy communication. I’m loving it! Our line in the hallway has never been so quiet since I use the app on my phone wherever we go in the school.

Khan Academy
Teaching Advanced Math this year in 5th grade has forced me to find new ways to get the difficult, higher level standards across to my students. I’ve used Khan Academy before to show students videos of how to do certain types of problems, but this year I’ve set myself up as a “coach” so that I can have my students on my account. This allows me to see what skills they are practicing and how they are progressing.

iXL is a great purchase by our school’s education foundation in which the students are able to practice any skill at any grade level, as well as search specifically by standard. There are so many practice problems and the students can get awards and see their progress. I like to use this for homework every so often and as a center for students to go to to reinforce skills we’ve already learned to maintain mastery.

Using a lot of technology can seem overwhelming and scary, but trust me, once you spend some time getting accustomed to it, it can be your best friend. The more you use the technology, the easier it gets and more fluid it becomes within your day. Some of the most positive outcomes I’ve experienced this year since incorporating the use of social media this year have been

· a higher level of connectedness from parents

· enthusiasm from parents, students, and MYSELF!

· Fewer parent concerns about lack of communication

· More responsibility placed on students

I can’t wait to see what other tools are available in the years to come. What are your favorite forms of technology and social media that YOU use in the classroom?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Terry. I appreciate your willingness to try new things. I get bogged down in working out the kinks, so to hear about the end result has been truly motivating.