Consulting the Expert: A Teacher's Thoughts on Social Media in the Classroom

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Consulting the Expert: A Teacher's Thoughts on Social Media in the Classroom

blog pic 2.jpgIn today’s 21st Century teaching model, it’s certainly a race to the top for teachers to come up with the latest technological innovations that can bring learning to students in a whole different light. After all, everyone wants to be able to say that they were the first to discover that you can use Facebook to create a “Spanish Grade 11” group. Or that they were the teacher that introduced video conferencing to the classroom before everyone else in their school.

While exploring the tech space when it comes to schools these past few months, one question has come across loud and clear – how do you propel forward with technology innovation while still not blurring student/teacher lines?

Earlier this week, I was talking to a fellow TMC Web Editor about our Thanksgiving breaks and our Thanksgiving Eves (you know, the night before Thanksgiving when entire high school graduating classes return to their local bars to find out who is engaged, who has that cool job at MTV and who is eyeing the political front). And as we were reminiscing about our days off, she mentioned that she learned that one of her friends is attempting to bring technology innovation to the classroom in a safe, yet interactive way. Naturally I had to do some digging.

Turns out my co-worker was right.

Caroline Vuilleumier, a four-year math teacher at Norwood High School in Massachusetts, has restored my faith that technological innovation, in particular, social media, can safely be brought to the classroom.

This 26-year-old, who teaches everything from Honors Pre-calculus to College Geometry to inclusion Data, Statistics, and Probability, decided to abandon her Norwood teacher website (where she used to post assignments) and instead use Twitter to give instant updates on homework, projects, etc. Her Twitter account is pretty clever to boot:!/mathisdabombcom.

“This year, I post homework, project due dates, and quiz/test dates on Twitter,” Vuilleumier told me this week. “It's so much easier for me to post because I can do it right from my phone whether I'm at school or at home. I have quite a few parents that follow me but it's mainly the kids. It makes it easier for the kids to check in on what I assigned since they can do it from their phone.  Sometimes they also tweet me to let me know I forgot to post the homework.”

Recent tweets for Mathisdabomb have been: “Period 2 Precalc: Finish Do Now from class and p.160 #1-6 all, 11-20 all,” “Period 6 Geometry: Fun Sheet- What Might You Have If You Don't Feel Well? AND Study for your quiz on 3.3-3.4!,” and “Period 5 Geometry: Finish Practice Quiz 1.1-1.6. Actual quiz moved to Friday.”

While I certainly believe sharing a Facebook or Twitter account with a student can pose problems (only if used inappropriately), I wanted Vuilleumier to weigh in on the subject, as someone who deals with these issues every day.

“As for safely using social media with students, it's definitely not easy,” she told me. “The kids don't realize that when they choose to follow me on Twitter, I can see their entire timeline if I want to. However, I respect them enough to not go searching for things. When I use Twitter, it's strictly for posting.”

“I know there are some teachers who use Facebook as a means for communicating with students but I draw the line there,” she added. “There's too much personal information about me and my students on Facebook for that to be safe. My entire profile is private.  I refuse to accept friend requests from students.  A few of them try every year and I inevitably have to have the talk with all of my classes about why it is creepy to be friends with your teacher on Facebook.  That usually opens the door for a lecture about protecting yourself online and increasing their privacy settings.”

To me, social media in the classroom is black and white; there is little room for grays. You can either use it solely for educational purposes (and to achieve this you need to create a separate Facebook or Twitter account to post homework assignments, answer student questions, etc.), or you should not use it at all. Those teachers that potentially blur the lines are those that maintain their original social media accounts and use them to not only update their statuses during the week to reflect homework assignments but also use them to post pictures from their weekend at a rowdy college reunion.

How are you stacking up in the teacher technological innovation race?




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