When discussing parent and pupil engagement with schools the topic of social media cannot be avoided. It is a huge part of how pupils, parents, and teachers communicate today; both inside and outside of the school gates.
A recent study by Hootsuite, a social media management tool, suggested that there are 1.7 billion active social media users in the world, meaning that ¼ of the worlds population use social media.
With Twitter’s 288 million active monthly users and Facebook’s 1.3 billion monthly active users it is highly probable that a large proportion of your school’s pupils and parents are using these channels every day.
In our 4 benefits your parental engagement tool should offer blog post, the first benefit highlighted was that the tool must be able to communicate with parents in the channels that they use every day.
Today, this means looking at Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, and much more. Some of these are more relevant than others for schools looking to increase the effectiveness of their engagement with pupils and parents but it is crucial that schools know how to use these platforms and how to use them well.
So, how do you use Facebook and Twitter to engage your pupils and their parents?
SchoolZone conducted research in August 2014 into how secondary school teachers use social media; they found that only 20% of teachers use social media to interact with their students. However, social media can be a powerful tool for schools looking to improve engagement, communication, and collaboration.
Private Facebook groups for whole schools or even individual classes allow teachers to keep parents and pupils up to date in the channels that they are comfortable using every day. This engagement can be purely informative, meaning that the school is pushing out information and updates, or it can be more conversational, encouraging pupils and parents to comment and share their views or work.
For many teachers this can be a daunting idea, with fears of e-safety, cyberbullying, and data security overpowering their plans for improved engagement. However, it is becoming increasingly common for educational establishments to use Facebook groups as a means of communication. These groups are a powerful platform to share information and encourage collaborative learning beyond the classroom. Members of the groups can exchange files, links, documents, polls and videos very quickly, through an interface that they are all familiar with.
Classroom idea: Set up a Facebook group for your students entering into a revision period before their exams. As a teacher, you can share revision resources, links to helpful YouTube clips, set quick quizzes to test their knowledge, and stay in touch with them while they are away from school revising. For pupils, this means they can ask their peers and their teachers questions quickly and easily no matter where they are revising.
If you are already using Facebook and looking to expand the creative use of Facebook in your classroom take a look at this YouTube clip of how Bullis School used Facebook to enhance the teaching of a U.S History Class.
In Schoolzone’s research they found 52% of teachers used Twitter in a professional capacity, with only Youtube’s usage being higher.
Although Twitter is largely used by teachers to network with other teachers it also has a value for school communications and engagement. Many schools now have their own Twitter accounts, which they use to keep parents updated with school information, to share images and videos of pupils in school, and to promote the school to prospective pupils and parents.
Twitter accounts can also be linked to your school website as an RSS feed, allowing your communications to parents to be joined up across different channels.
On Twitter, some teachers have been setting up subject or class accounts that students can then follow. The teacher then tweets information related to their class or can even use the account to set homework. There are real benefits to doing this. Using Twitter to set homework means that the moment it has been set it is visible to all students (and parents if they want), students cannot get away with “forgetting to write it down”, the written instructions cannot be lost, and students not present in class will still receive the homework. Using Twitter to set homework enables clearer, better, faster communication between teachers, students, and parents.
Classroom idea: Set up a teacher or class Twitter profile for one of your classes, send the account information to your pupils and use this profile as a platform to set homework, send out homework reminders, tweet engaging and related YouTube clips or images, and encourage your pupils to engage with the class.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, watch this short YouTube clip about using Twitter in education.