Parents of children at Park Elementary in Columbia, Pa., no longer have
to face the classic conversation -- "What did you learn in school
today?" "Nothing." -- to learn what's happening in class.
If their children are in Heather Nace's classroom, all the parents have to do is check Twitter.
By following the second-grade class account, @Grade2Nace, they might see the message: "We planted pinwheels in the garden. This is the best day ever!!!" accompanied by a photo of the activity.
Parents and students also can find the week's spelling words, reminders about upcoming assignments and links to online learning games.
"Technology in the classroom is awesome" Nace said.
"The students love it, and it really motivates them," she said. "I wish I had iPads for my class."
Twitter is just one way Park Elementary teachers use social media in the classroom.
Rachel Tusten's fourth-grade class uses a classroom wiki page to post reading responses and find web resources.
Fourth-grader Mirna Abdelmasseh said it helps her learn more.
For instance, she got information on Mississippi ghost towns for her state project. The ghost towns were not included in the library books on Mississippi, Mirna said.
Other students' eyes light up when asked if they enjoy using the class computers.
"Why do we have to write if we could have fun by typing?" Audreana Frazier said.
In Park's three fifth-grade classrooms, teachers and students have pioneered the use of EdModo, a free social network for schools.
"EdModo made everything easier this year," Kevin Kreider, a 5th- grade teacher, said. "It's all there in the cloud."
When students worked on their "famous American" research projects, they uploaded their work, including PowerPoint presentations, to EdModo. This saved them from forgetting flash drives or losing work, Kreider said.
EdModo also has a forum for students to ask homework questions. The teacher receives an email each time a student posts. Often, other students respond to their classmates' queries before Kreider does.
"Kids have been able to own their own learning," he said. "It's not so teacher-dependent."
Kreider said EdModo creates opportunities for different types of learning. He posts math videos in the forums, for example. Shy students who might not ask questions in class can use these tools for extra review.
Park's fifth-grade team said it believes in the value of EdModo so much that the three teachers, along with four students, taught other Lancaster and Lebanon County teachers how to use the social network at Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 earlier this year.
"It's something different than normal paper and pencils," Kreider said. "It gives students a different way of looking at things."
Although the web tools being used at Park are free, the laptops and netbooks to access them are not.
Laura Cowburn, business manager, said Columbia Borough School District used $211,800 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for technology purchases.
The district also received $25,000 from the Columbia Education Foundation for technology needs.
Looking ahead to the 2012-13 school year, Park teachers are ready to grow the use of technology to expand learning.
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