Social media in classroom making difference
Horn: ‘Being so connected is best for the students’
After 10 years of teaching, with two years of that at Southwest, second-grade teacher Melissa Horn has managed to bring parents into the classroom and their childrens’ education by keeping them constantly updated and informed on what is happening in the classroom.
Horn came to Southwest from the Purdy school district.
“We have a lot of teachers at Southwest that use our Facebook page to communicate with parents,” she said. “Most parents are on Facebook anyway, so what better way to reach out to them.”
The most convenient aspect to this is that there is not a separate app that parents have to log into or download.
“They already have it and are already on it throughout the day,” she said. “As a parent, I can remember when my daughter was in kindergarten that a lot of the time I had no idea how to help her when we got home.”
Knowing how to help a child continue on the same path of education they are getting in the classroom really helps to bridge that gap and is best for the child’s success.
“What are they working on, and how do I help with homework?” she said. “With the school’s Facebook page, there are two goals. The first is to make sure families are really connected. I can tell them to read with their child every night, and most of them want to do that to help, but they may not know the kind of questions to ask the child to tie it into the classroom’s efforts.
“Now, they will know this week they are working on settings, so when they sit down to read they can ask the child about that specific topic.”
The second way the district uses its Facebook page is for motivation.
“Even as second-graders, social media is still very powerful to them,” she said. “I started this when I taught middle school, because they are all on social media. But, even with second-graders, they love to have people acknowledge them.”
When a student in Horn’s class does something exciting, like have a huge growth in their star reading test or they read their first chapter book, she takes their picture and shares it on the Facebook page.
“Every child in our class has at least one person on there that supports them,” she said. “It may be parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles, but the student sees the praise in “likes” and “comments” and they get excited.”
Horn shares that praise with the students, and then the student can see that not only do they and their teacher think they did something great, but so does the community.
“The entire community is behind them and rallying for these children,” she said. “The parents don’t only cheer for their child, but for all of them, and that really motivates the children to grow and to do better.”
Children want to be acknowledged and know that people are proud of them. This is a great way to reiterate that to the students.
“I have been doing things like this with technology for years,” she said. “With different districts I have used other methods, apps, websites and so on. But technology changes so much, and to be able to have this and reach students and parents on an app that they already have and use is great.”
Horn has taken different ideas and methods and tried to make it bigger and more involved.
“Now, they can feel like they are actually a part of our classroom and not just watching from outside,” she said. “When I was in school, school was kind of secretive. Parents only found out about school if you were in trouble.
“Now, there is more of a focus to open doors and let people in, and we can use social media to do that.”
Horn is not the only teacher who is doing this in Southwest, and she believes it looks great on the school to have that instant communication with parents and teachers.
“I feel like being so connected is best for the students,” she said. “If the parents know what is happening, then they can support their child and our students.”
Parents generally want to help, but not knowing what to do can hinder that success.
“Parents want their children to be successful,” she said. “And we want to give them the tools to make that possible.”
Another great benefit to this, is that the teacher can send links to help the parents understand the method being used to teach their child.
“Math for example — it is always changing,” she said. “Now, we can send a youtube video to the parents to walk them through the strategies being used in the classroom.”
One thing Horn wants to point out to other teachers that may want to try something like this, is that she does not administer her page alone.
“The day I set up my group, I added my principal as an admin to my page,” she said. “That way he could, if he wanted to, go in and read any private messages, which is just an added security measure that makes sure the student is truly getting the best out of this.
“I wouldn’t want a teacher to go out and blindly attempt this. Make sure you have another set of eyes that keeps things running how they should.”