I have always felt that teachers and parents are a team. Parents are the silent partners in the classroom. As partners, parents should understand the process and the philosophy on how their child is educated. When a piece of paper with a child’s “coloring” goes home, its important for parents to know that it isn’t just a “scribble”, there is meaning and purpose behind it. When at the end of the day a parent asks, “what did you do today?” and their child responds, “nothing.” That closes the door to communication and the home school connection disengages.
Thus became the motivation behind developing a Twitter account @btfantastics . Twitter was going to open the communication of classroom happenings and enhance conversation after school. Parents and children could revisit the school day with reinforced learning. This would empower the young child to feel confident about their day. This would help strengthen the learning and lead to expanded learning with a growth mindset. Real conversations would take place in car rides home, dinner tables or nighttime rituals. Daily activities were posted so parents who followed the twitter feed would ask their children direct questions about school happenings. “I see you had blueberries for snack today, did you like them?” or “That castle in the block area was so tall, was it as tall as your teacher?” “Tell me about why little smudge was sad in that story?” Children were talking and it was working! What an incredible communication tool to add to the arsenal of parent teacher communication. I went further and started to tweet articles that were relevant to education and early childhood. It was benefiting some parents and they were responding. Twitter became a powerful tool for communication between parents and their children. But I still was not engaging all parents. I needed to get more families to understand the purpose of social media in the classroom.
So I added Instagram to my arsenal. Instagram became more of a visual tool for the learning process. Parents saw their children happily engaged. They now had a visual provocation for after school conversations. This only added to the success of Twitter because Instagram allowed for a more detailed explanation and 100% attention to the screen. The visual interaction allowed parents (and children) to focus purely on the photograph and its descritption. Instant photographs of a child’s engagement are at parents fingertips at their choosing and they could comment and or “like”. I made the account private between fellow teachers and families. Only people I know can join and all content is directly related to the children in my class and our school. It too was working. Twitter continues to be an open communication source for my class but I focus more on process and less on the who’s who in the class. The “techie” social media parents still follow along and use classroom happenings and parenting tips to their learning advantage. It has created awareness.
While Twitter has become a modern day tool for parent teacher communications it also works for teachers to share information with one another. It has broaden the playing field for professional development and opened the doors for educators across the globe to compare notes, share information and raise the bar. Through this global network I have found renewed inspiration and continued validation as an educator. Resources are in abundance for educating children. Twitter chats and educational hashtags are a plethora of information reinforcing passion and commitment. It’s a revolving reflection on our teaching practice. The professional support and respect of those tweeting has become a positive source for play, literacy, math, arts, science and all things early childhood and more. Educators from Australia, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore, UK, Tokyo and the U.S. unite in educating children with similar philosophies of emergent curriculum. It is astounding, inspiring and awesome! I encourage all educators to hop on the Twitter train, it is taking professional development in an exciting new direction.
Last but not least I recently started a professional Facebook page to publicly share insights, websites and inspiration for families and fellow educators. Although I personally find Facebook frustrating, it is an excellent source for spreading awareness on important issues related to parenting, children and education. Pinterest is in there too which can be overwhelming at times but inspiring and awesome in organizing interests and ideas.
In conclusion, social media in the classroom works as a powerful communication tool for both educators and their families. It is a way to document children’s learning, communicate with families and strengthen professional development. I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg with more learning to come. So follow along and share what you find!