Monday, August 1, 2011

Start the New School Year Using Social Media

Finally back to the blog after a month long vacation during the month of July.  I needed the break to be with family and friends and take a break from anything work related for a while.  Since I am going back into the classroom this coming school year, allow me to share how I am going to be using Social Media with my students to start off the posts for the month of August.

The 2011-2012 school year is just around the corner.  My school year will be very different.  It will be tough adjusting to life back in the classroom after being out of it for two years.  There are several things that will take getting re-used to: Duty schedule, lesson plans, grading papers, discipline, etc.  But they are all expectations of being a teacher.

Over the past two years I have learned a lot about integrating technology in the classroom, but I have also learned about my personal teaching philosophy and what it means to be a teacher.  I recognized so many flaws in my teaching strategies when provided the opportunity to be on the outside looking in.  I noticed damaging characteristics of my personality that interfered with my ability to enjoy being a teacher.  Hopefully this coming school year will allow me to put in to practice all that I have learned and reflected on.

One of the new strategies I learned about was utilizing social media in the classroom.  My last year in the classroom, all these social media tools existed.  They were there for me to use with students and parents, but no one was telling me how to use them.  Through personal professional development, collaborating online with other teachers, and attending conferences, I learned so much about how to use these social media tools.  This coming school year, I will be working at integrating a classroom Blog, Facebook Page, and Twitter Feed.

Why all three?  Because not every parent has a Twitter or Facebook account.  Not every student has, or is permitted to have a Facebook Account.  The blog allows me to easily share the same information with those students and parents who do not utilize social networking.  You are probably thinking to yourself: "That sure is a lot of repeating information."  Yeah, it is, but I can use a site like Twitterfeed, and have my blog posts automatically posted to the classroom Facebook and Twitter pages.  Therefore I am really only updating one site, and if necessary I can post separately.

Setting this up is fairly easy.  All I needed was my RSS feed for my blog, my Twitter Username, and my Facebook Page Address.  You can learn more about linking your blog to Facebook using Twitterfeed here and linking your blog to Twitter using Twitterfeed here.  This process really will help to synchronize the communication with students and parents.

Another great feature of Twitter is the ability to create a hashtag; which is typing a "#" before text that is used in your tweet.  For example, I use #MrZimHCCHS for my classroom Twitter feed.  The hashtag categorizes tweets.  If a parent or student does not have a Twitter account, they can still visit the Twitter homepage and type in the hashtag for the classroom Twitter feed in the search bar.  This is great because students can still use the service without having to join the site.  The other great thing about Twitterfeed is that you can include the hashtag in the automated tweets of the posts from the classroom blog, therefore students who don't have an account don't miss out on information if they prefer to check Twitter.

When it comes to the Facebook page, I created a separate profile where I only show "My Info" and include in the information that the page will not be used to connect with friends, parents, and students, only to create my Classroom Facebook Page.  In the settings for my Facebook page I made it to where I am the only one who can post statuses, links, pictures, notes, and videos on the wall.  Students and parents will be able to comment, but that is it.  If desired, notifications can be setup to receive emails when comments are made.

So when it comes to "policing" the social media, what do I do?  I require the students to sign a set of rules related to social media, and that bad behavior on the page is just like bad behavior in the classroom.  I also will show students how to make their own Facebook pages private so that I (and questionable people) don't have access to their page, therefore protecting myself from communicating with students outside of the Classroom Facebook page. 

With the growth of mobile technology, students can download a Twitter app and the Facebook app and easily follow our social media classroom and not miss out on anything I share.  Students interested in RSS can download a Reader app to get blog updates as well.  I am sure that I will run into some issues in my move towards using social media, but I am expecting them to happen and am preparing myself for ways to handle them. 

My Classroom blog is just getting going, so not much is on it.  Same goes for my Classroom Twitter and Classroom Facebook Page.  You might not want to use all three like me, but I highly encourage you to embrace one method and utilize it in your classroom.  Using social media is not specific to high school either.  Parents of all grades would like some form of alternate communication to connect with their child's classroom.  You might even survey parents at an open house to see which they would prefer.

Need further assistance?  Contact me on Twitter and lets work together!