Social Networking by the Book

We grappled this week with the issue of teachers and students being “friends” in an online social networking environment.  In my post, I suggested that these tools can actually have great educational usefulness, as long as their intended purpose is clearly defined and teachers segregate their personal content from their professional content.  More specifically, I shared my vision of using Twitter as a communication channel among the students working on the school’s yearbook and me (I’m the advisor).  Both Rod and Heather seemed to think that this is an idea worth pursuing… so I did.

I followed up on Rod’s suggestion to consider (where I rediscovered an account I’d created a year or so ago).  The format is a whole lot prettier than Moodle, which most teachers in my school currently use.  So, I’m newly motivated to explore ways that Edmodo can supplement what I already do with my Applications of Technology class, if not replace Moodle entirely.

For my yearbook students, however, I’m more interested in the ubiquitous nature of Twitter… I want students to read and respond to tweets quickly and easily with a variety of devices, including cell phones.  Edmodo is fairly browser-based at this point, but they’re working towards being a bit more mobile with an upcoming app for iPhone/iTouch (now in beta).

In the meantime, I went ahead and registered the LCDSyearbook username.  By “protecting my tweets” I can keep the communication among the staff private (or at least as private, I think, as it would be in Edmodo).  I suspect that the information flowing in this channel (stuff like “Don’t forget to take pictures of today’s guest speaker.” “The new layout for the portrait pages is fabulous!” “DEADLINE to submit quotes is 3pm today.”) will be of little interest to anyone outside of our group.

There will be times, of course, when we’ll want to communicate with the larger school community.  We’re often interested in conducting polls or gathering feedback about particular school events or issues.  A different social-networking tool, Poll Everywhere, would be ideal for that purpose.  Here’s what it would look like on the student portal of our website:

Get a free sms student response system at Poll Everywhere

We’d likely also generate a text-message version that would be displayed on the digital LCD sign in the school’s main lobby. Students would vote for their choice by sending text messages to the assigned number.  Poll Everywhere provides the option of conducting polls via Twitter, but the fact that the tweets (on our LCDSyearbook account) are set to private would necessitate a second “public” account.  That’s certainly something to consider for the future.

These polls are a quick and easy way to take the pulse of the school, but the real meat of the yearbook are the quotes and anecdotes that tell the story of our year.  For that, we’d switch to a tool like SurveyMonkey.  Our efforts would be similar to those of the admissions office, which recently used the results of this survey to generate this publication.  Progress in creating the survey and updates on the results could be shared internally via Twitter, but the link itself would be sent out using email.

We’re already skimming the Facebook and Flickr feeds of LCDS students for images to use in the book (with permission, of course), but I’m enthusiastic about these additional ways in which social networking will expedite and streamline our communication, connect us to one another and the rest of the student body, and perhaps even make our jobs just a bit more fun!

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