Social Media Marches Toward County Classrooms
By Kevin Maxwell
Superintendent of Schools
On April 18, the Board of
Education approved two policies and our school system implemented accompanying
administrative regulations designed to harness the power of social media in
education across our county.
For all their foibles, social
media sites offer a treasure trove of opportunities for students, parents, and
teachers. While the most obvious avenue is communication – sites like Facebook
and Twitter have long ago replaced email as the favored means of message
transmission for many – there are many social media sites that can provide added
content and open additional paths of exploration in the instructional arena.
Across the country, school systems
are increasingly examining ways to enhance the delivery of classroom lessons for
students and to simultaneously allow students to use a platform with which they
are well accustomed. On a daily basis, teachers and students use Twitter,
YouTube, Vimeo, and many other social media tools to share their learning, pose
questions to experts and similar-aged peers around the country and world, and
increase their awareness of similarities and differences between cultures and
For example, kindergarten students
connected with a class in another country to collaborate to determine how tall a
child was by exploring measurement tools. Students tweeted messages back and
forth about their experiments and learned that yellow pencils are not a standard
unit of measurement, but that some cubes would work and rulers were best. For
older students, these social media tools are used to follow and understand
trends and happenings, embedding learning skills in current events. These
experiences excite students, provide authentic opportunities to learn, and open
a world of opportunities for connecting with others.
In the weeks since the Board took
its action, two committees with members from across our school system have been
studying the best ways to move forward when students return to school in August.
A list of social media sites approved by one of the committees for instructional
use will be developed and published so that parents are aware of the sites to
which their children may have access.
In the fall, parents will be asked
to sign a single consent form, to allow their children to access approved sites
throughout the year. Sites will be listed on the form, but it is important to
note that parents will not be providing consent to material used in cases where
students are simply shown content from an approved site by a teacher on, for
example, a classroom Smartboard. In those instances, teachers – just as they do
now –will be responsible for determining appropriate content for lessons.
Consent will be required for instances where students physically access approved
sites through school system devices.
Under the regulations, school
system employees will be required to differentiate between personal and
professional sites. A drama club advisor, for example, who wishes to use social
media to communicate with club members and their parents, can do so by following
established protocols. But that advisor must set up a specific, clearly named
page and not use his or her personal page for that communication.
The list of approved sites will be
reviewed at least annually, and will clearly change as social media evolves. It
will also be differentiated by levels, with elementary students, having access
to different sites than high school students.
Our intent is not only to continue
to find ways to enhance the instruction provided to students, but to use social
media to enhance the professional development afforded to teachers and other
school system employees. Numerous groups of educators across the country and
world seek out and establish connections and weekly meeting times to gather
online. They share ideas and resources and discuss topics impacting their work.
These connections enhance the teaching and also provide opportunities for global
collaboration for students and teachers.
Parents should review their
child’s communications and use of social media to ensure that use is consistent
with our stated purposes. We will continue our discussion throughout the summer,
and provide parents with more information about the instructional uses for
social media at Back to School nights in the fall.
The writer is
superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools
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Social Media Marches Toward County Classrooms