Saturday, June 20, 2009

Exploring Twitter and Facebook

Time is getting away from me as I research Web 2.0. How does everyone keep up with monitoring their email, read online blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and find time to do laundry, read a book, and other everyday stuff?

I've been exploring both Twitter and Facebook--I view this research as equivalent to taking a summer class and thus it justifies the time I'm spending on it. :) But really, it can become time-consuming--or maybe the key word is "addictive!"

I've been looking at Twitter as a possible home/school communication tool. How many times have you found printed school announcements wadded in the back of student desks and in the bottom of back packs? The intent was clear--provide information to parents--but the mission failed.

As our parent base gets younger and younger, I believe we need to consider communication styles they are accustomed to using--such as texting and social networks. As Twitter only allows 140 characters (note characters and not words), public announcements are kept short and to the point: "Family Night will be held on Tuesday, September 26 at 6:30 pm featuring a first grade presentation." Teachers and the school office can compose short, quick messages on the computer. This helps to save the school paper costs to encourage "green" communication. After parents have been informed of this communication format, they can sign on and "follow" to receive these school memos. Thus, teachers are not spending time entering parent information. Additionally, parents could access the information via their online computer or by mobile devices, such as cell phones with online access.

We may need to consider a "tighter" community than Twitter. From Free Technology for Teachers: Here is a free version of a specific community microblogging program called Comments for education application: "Twitter can be good for getting instant feedback and taking informal surveys of a class. The problem with using Twitter is it's too public for some school settings. provides a free place to get the same type of feedback as you'd gather on Twitter, but in a closed setting."

(6/29/2009 I have recently encountered another free community to use Twitter between teachers and students called Edmodo and here's a slideshow to demonstration how to use Edmodo ).

Now Facebook--it has been fun to explore and I have even found some college sorority sisters through Facebook. I have posted some photos on my profile page and occasionally I will post some obscure comment about nothing. I have even searched friend profiles to see the groups they belong to, how many friends they have, and to view their photos (friend settings can be set to allow other confirmed friends to view profile information so it isn't as though I'm spying even though it feels like I am!).

However, I'm not sure that this social networking tool could be utilized for school communication purposes. Several teachers in our district are already on Facebook so postings may not always be as professional as one would like when a parent can view your activities with "Farm Town" and other Facebook games. Maybe you can tweak the settings in a way that I've not yet determined for this type of professional communication. Or maybe teachers could continue to use Facebook for their own social community and our school could use Twitter for our home/school communications.

I would appreciate comments from others utilizing social network tools for school/home communication. What have your schools tried? What was the response from both teachers and parents? What tips would you suggest in getting started?

And one last thought offered by a friend and colleague after my "I maybe be famous" post--"Now that you’ve Googled yourself you know what your “digital footprint” looks like. Most of our students, and probably lots of our staff, have not gotten this concept. What will it look like when someone Googles you? What will a prospective employer find? One of our former students is on my Facebook list, and recently he posted his status as follows: “The job hunt is not good. I’ve gotten one offer so far, but it sucks!” I had a report of one of our high school student’s MySpace page which had a picture of the student and parent both holding alcoholic beverages. I guess they think nobody’s looking or something – or they’re not thinking.

Now most kids will say, “Yeah, I’ll take all that stuff off before I start looking for a job.” Perhaps they haven’t heard of – that stuff doesn’t just go away.

Food for thought!"

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