As a teenager in the 80’s I remember sitting by the radio listening for my school to be read off the long list of school cancellations. If I happened to ‘zone out’ and miss when they got to my school I’d have to sit by the radio for another 15 minutes until they read it off again. Years later websites appeared – schools could update their home page to announce the closing, new channels could list the closings – and we’re no longer tied to the radio or tv. But with websites we had to be near a computer. Then came Smart phones…
Thank Goodness for Smart Phones!
I can now check websites from anywhere. Even better yet, the closings are now posted on Facebook. If my school posts a “School Closed!” message on Facebook it should appear in my newsfeed. If it doesn’t show up on my newsfeed posts from ‘friends’ about the school closing will pop into my newsfeed. Then it’s time to make myself a cup of coffee and get ready for a day off!
Schools Discover the Benefit of Social Media!
School cancellations are just one way schools are discovering the benefits of using social media to connect with their students, families, staff, and community. Schools are realizing there are benefits to using social media in areas such as…
- lessons in and out of the physical classroom,
- professional development of staff,
- connecting with the community, and
- communicating with parents
What Platform Are Schools Using?
Depending on what the school or teacher is trying to accomplish and where the audience (parents, staff, students, community) ‘hangs out’ they may use the school website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, or other educational platforms.
Jessica Silva, Tri-County’s public relations specialist, explained their decision to use Facebook to reach parents, “Tri-County’s social media strategy focuses on Facebook…. Since Facebook’s demographics skew more toward the age of our parents and alumni, we chose to direct most of our posts to them (via Facebook). These posts cover upcoming events, news updates, as well as important information about snow cancellations and last-minute changes to athletic schedules due to inclement weather.”
Once schools determine where their audience is they can go to them. According to Pew Research and Statista Facebook appears to be the platform used by both parents and students, with Snapchat surpassing the Facebook for students. But “don’t assume this answer (for your audience). Ask the question” at the beginning of each year, “Do you use social media? If you do, what one?”
Facebook Tells Your Story!
Schools are using Facebook to tell their story, to share and celebrate with students, parents, and the community what is happening in their school and classrooms. Here are just a few of the ways schools utilize Facebook to communicate, either in a ‘one-sided’ or ‘two-way’ conversation.
Facebook for One-Way (Information) Communication!
- Promote the events and successes of the school – sports, arts, cultural events, open houses, and important dates.
- Share blogs, news articles, interviews, and announcements
- Post fundraising information
- Post “fun and interesting” images and memes
The above examples tend to be more 1-sided conversations, but there is so much more that can be accomplished through Facebook, including…
Facebook for Two-Way Communication!
- Communication with your audience 24/7: Students can ask homework questions and teachers or students can respond!
- Collaboration at all levels: Students with students, students with teachers, teachers with teachers, teachers and parents, and parents with parents.
- Sharing of Work: Students and parents can see the work being done and provide positive feedback and peer-to-peer review.
- Teaching: Make it interactive.
Cultivate Discussion with Groups!
Facebook groups are effective ways to share information and cultivate discussion. These groups may be ‘open’ – where anyone can view and interact, or ‘closed’ – allowing only the ‘members’ of the groups to be able to view or participate. For example, teachers use a closed group to post discussion questions for their students only – almost like a discussion board. Public groups can be used to “show off students achievements, sports day, prom, and so on” to teachers, friends, and family!
Each school and teacher (should) evaluate if their use of Facebook has benefitted the learning and communication process and has accomplished the purpose it is being used for. This is done through surveys, in-person discussion, and analyzing their results of student participation, attendance to events, and comments on Facebook.
Facebook is used by schools for various purposes: to keep students, parents, and the community up-to-date in a timely manner, celebrate the accomplishments, collaborate, learn, and communicate with all!
How is your school using Facebook?
What do you wish they did more of?
If you teach – how do you use Facebook or what are your concerns?