Social media is becoming a valuable tool for students to master in this technology-driven world.
Despite the negativity that surrounds platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, there are ways to use social media to teach students a valuable lesson. Ann Ryan, assistant principal at the Warren Area Elementary Center, is demonstrating this through the integration of Gaggle into the curriculum.
Initially introduced last year as a cost-effective alternative to expensive software-driven email, Gaggle provides every student from kindergarten through 12th grade with their own email address. Concerns about children being provided with an email account have been met with smart, responsible answers thanks to the new platform in use.
Warren Times Observer photo by Brian Collins
WAEC Assistant Principal Ann Ryan assists students from Jamie Hasbrouck’s fourth grade class. Students are able to access email, social pages, and blogs in an educational environment through Gaggle. Left to right are Destiny Foster, Ryan, John Page, and Serena Clarke.
Before students are able to use their new account, they must pass a cyber safety course that educates them on posting safely and not replying to strangers. Additionally, teachers and administrators use SMARTboards to demonstrate proper use - a vital part in the children's understanding. Even after successfully completing their training, students must pass a short quiz each time they want to access their accounts; one of the many ways that Gaggle keeps kids thinking.
"The kids push the teachers to use it," said Ryan about the blogs and social pages that students are able to access through their account. "Everything is screened and an administrator is notified via email when anything unusual or concerning is sent through the system."
There are no ads, less distractions, and more ways for the kids to interact with each other in an educational environment, including GaggleTube - a more educational version of the popular YouTube geared towards students.
Another way is blogging - basically an online journal for others to read, published by the student. "When you put yourself out there for the whole world to see, not everyone is going to like what you have to say," said Ryan. "If they can string the concepts together, though, that's a hard thing to teach."
Focus on privacy and limiting exposure allows the children to experiment with their writing in a safe environment where only the people they allow can see what they've written and provide them with beneficial feedback.
Students in Jamie Hasbrouck's fourth-grade class were enthusiastic about Gaggle. Responses ranged from Serena Clarke's interest in gymnastics to John Page, who likes to write about soccer, all the way to Destiny Foster. who simply enjoys being able to email her friends.
Students aren't the only ones learning new things. Teachers and administrators are provided the opportunity to create their own personal and class pages. Ryan encourages the teachers to write their own blogs so that parents and students can view them. Individual class pages also allow teachers to not only post homework assignments online but also to mark and return them with electronic feedback.
Parents are even able access to their children's blogs and class pages which is helping to initiate more interaction between the students, the parents and the teachers in what might be called "an online PTO meeting."
In an effort to make sure that every child is given the chance to experience the benefits of Gaggle, even kindergarteners and first graders at South Street Early Learning Center take advantage of GaggleTube. Principal Ann Buerkle said though the children are too young to make use of the blogs, email, and social pages, teachers often pull up videos in an effort to incorporate media into the curriculum.