Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Social media in our K-5 school

This post was originally written as a primer for parents on how the staff & students use various "social media" tools as part of the instructional day. It originally appeared on the PS10Tech blog

I am often asked about how we use "social media" here at PS 10. It is a question that is both very simple & easy to answer and one that is also complex and nuanced. Let me elaborate...

Social media as defined by many people includes things like Facebook and Twitter. According to the Department of Education's social media policy for staff, social media is defined as:

... any form of online publication or presence that allows interactive communication, including, but not limited to, social networks, blogs, Internet websites, Internet forums,
and wikis. Examples of social media include, but are not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,  Google+, and Flickr... (source:

That is a fairly broad definition, and includes a lot of platforms not generally association with "social media" such as wikis & blogs.

Here is how we, as teachers, use it...
  • Teachers have class webpages/wikis/blogs to help foster the home-school connection. These sites are great resources for keeping all members of the class community in the loop. Updates of class happenings are posted, often with pictures (great ways to get insights into the class environment). In addition, many also post homework assignments, calendars of events, book lists, field trip itineraries, and so forth. The sites are "social media" and serve the great function of connecting the community & helping to create transparent learning environments.
  • Teachers have blogs, such as this one, for student writing. I often post assignments for either in-class exercises or vacation homework. These posts are both technical in nature as well as writing focused. Many teachers use the blogs for such things as an outlet for student free-writes. Using a blog hits many important curriculum areas, such as differentiating instruction as well as meeting many Common Core Standards (see here & here for examples).
  • Twitter is used by many teachers to tie elements together. A blog post takes time to write & publish. A web page takes time to write and publish. A tweet can take only seconds and serve the same purpose. Blogs and web pages are great, and the time invested is well worth it. But sometimes there are great things happening in class that deserve to be shared immediately. Twitter is a fantastic platform for that. In addition, some teachers aren't comfortable editing a web page or maintaining a blog. Twitter is a great platform to create the digital home-school connection & transparent learning environment without requiring a lot of technical expertise. There are a few other posts about how we use Twitter at PS 10 herehere, and here.
Here is how students use social media...

  • Checking class web pages to keep up to date on assignments (very useful when absent)
  • Checking class web pages for resources & follow-up information related to class work
  • Commenting on class blogs as an option for writing assignments (as mentioned above: differentiated instruction & CCSS)
  • Creating blogs & web pages as alternative options for projects (again, differentiated instruction & CCSS)
How I, as a computer teacher, use social media...
  • Blog commenting for assignments
  • Two classes have student-authored blogs as an experiment into student-run blogging. These blogs are tied to restricted accounts under our control (students have accounts but DO NOT have email inboxes)
  • Have students tweet from the @PS10Tech account (on an iPad) to write in a different medium, write using digital tools, and publish to a broad audience (again, CCSS)
  • Use tweets as a style of writing - creating a complete sentence with descriptive language in 140 characters or less is not always as easy as it seems. Composing a tweet can be a great way to teach brevity in writing as well as how to skillfully edit & revise for length without changing meaning
  • Most importantly, teaching my students a wide range of technology tools and platforms
At no time do I permit the use of any student's personal email or social media accounts. Anything we do in the lab, or in school, I stress needs to be done within the confines of the school/educational setting. If a student has a personal Twitter or Facebook account, that is between the student and their parents. They are not permitted to access or use those accounts during the school day.

I hope that brings some clarity to the use of "social media" within PS 10. Everything done with social media is done to help create a transparent learning environment, teach 21st century skills and proper use of related digital tools, and meet the needs of all learners through differentiation while also meeting CCSS.


  1. Great explanation of how you, the teachers and the students use "social media". Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Scott. I appreciate the feedback. Glad you found it useful.

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