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Getting Schooled in Social Media

Local educational institutions are using online media to communicate with students and parents.

School is in session and this month we are going cover some of the ways technology and social media are being used as educational tools, as well as making sure parents can stay one step ahead, or at least on the heels, of their kids when it comes to social media.

The turning point of the summer is usually when the teacher letter gets mailed home. Kids patiently wait for their schedules, little ones for their supply lists. It was early August when a group of women gathered in Stony Brook and tried to figure out when "the letter" would be sent home. Among that group was a secretary from a local elementary school.

"They aren't getting mailed home," she said. "We're green; it will be on the portal." 

When I asked her if I could use her name and school she joked, "Nah, there may be schools greener than us."

Social media goes well beyond what we think of in terms of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace in the instructional setting. The local schools are going green, and that means that more and more communication, including report cards, will be done via the Parent Portal. The district uses the Parent Portal to communicate with parents. Parents are given a login and password and this follows them through the district. Important communication that used to be sent home is now found there.

Moodle is another tool that is being used. An online "classroom," this tool is for teachers to interact with and share folders with other teachers throughout the district. iCampus is an online learning environment where teachers can post assignments and study materials for their classes. It is also accessible by parents so that they can see what is coming up for their children. Now when you ask your child if they have homework and they say no, you can see for yourself. It also allows parents to see when upcoming tests are so that they can help their child prepare. It is the district's hope that, with the parent's help, this tool will foster good study and work habits.

Parents are being directed to turn to the district's website for information. Each school has its own website as well. Working parents no longer have to worry about being able to contact the school during day. Information is available 24/7.

Traditional social media such as Twitter and Facebook has a home in higher education, exemplified by Stony Brook University. Some of its Twitter accounts are:

  • @WolfieSeawolf – SBU's official mascot
  • @SBUBursarSA – official Twitter for the SBU Bursar and Student Accounts Offices, which reminds students that fall deadlines are approaching
  • @SBAthletics

They have numerous Facebook pages as well: Stony Brook University, Stony Brook Athletics, Stony Brook University Bookstore and Stony Brook Athletic Bands.

"We see it as a very positive opportunity to create engagement with our students, to strengthen community online," said Stefan Hyman, the University's admissions, web and electronic information coordinator. "There are a lot of positives to fostering organic content...Another positive has been expanding the University's reach. We've been able to network with students all over the world through things like Twitter and Facebook."

But how are the young people of Three Village using social media?

Most kids will tell you that Twitter is for adults, but for them it is all about texting and Facebook. There is a lot of talk about the ills of social media and youth, but in the education setting, it has been around way before technology. Who hasn't had a passed note intercepted by a teacher? That was just the paper version of text messages. It is important that parents know what social media their children are using and how to use it. It may take some effort, but in no time you can become the techno Sherlock Holmes and know exactly what is going on at school (and after) through their accounts or the accounts of their friends. 

Keeping up with the way kids communicate will keep you in the loop. Right now you can read and see pictures of what they are up to with Facebook. Once Facebook gets quiet, although it doesn't appear to be any time soon, you'll know they have moved on to the newest means of communication.

Class dismissed.

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