When discussing tools to improve pupil and parent engagement 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 a quarter of the world's population use social media at least once a month.
With Twitter’s 288 million active monthly users and Facebook’s 1.3 billion active monthly users it is highly probable that a large proportion of your school’s pupils and parents are using these channels every day.
Today this means looking primarily at Twitter and Facebook. There are many other platforms that parents and pupils are utilizing but both Twitter and Facebook offer the most opportunities to improve engagement.
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 both inside and outside of the classroom.
Private Facebook groups for whole schools or 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.
Idea for pupil engagement:
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.
Idea for parental engagement:
Set up a school Facebook group, this group can be used to send out information from your school to keep parents in the loop and promote the school to prospective parents. By posting information about upcoming school activities, photos and videos from school events (such as sports day), and encouraging parents to get involved by liking or commenting on these posts you are sure to be able to improve engagement with parents. Many parental engagement tools, such as RM Engage, provide real-time tracking on the number of people who have viewed and engaged with your post on Facebook. Find out more here
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 US 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 school Twitter accounts; these are mainly used 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. But school Twitter accounts can also be used to improve engagement.
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.
Idea for pupil engagement:
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.
Idea for parental engagement:
A school Twitter account can be used to share quick information, using only 140 characters, to keep parents updated with important information or upcoming events. Make sure to monitor engagement with these tweets so that you know what works well. For example, if double the number of parents clicked on a tweet with an image attached rather than a tweet without an image, you know that in the future to improve levels of engagement using images is a good approach. Tools such as Twitter Analytics will provide a basic level of analysis for free, however if you are looking for more advanced analysis that lets you compare data from a longer time period, RM Engage provides a good alternative.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, watch this short YouTube clip about using Twitter in education.