Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 1, 2013

Tweeting and teaching in the classroom

Peru High School embraces technology as learning tool.

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Before dawn Monday, administrators at Peru High School sent out a tweet reminding their 513 Twitter followers that school was delayed two hours because of the fog.

Five people “retweeted” it. One marked it as a favorite.

On Sept. 28, they used the high school’s Twitter account to send out updates from the girls and boys soccer games.

“GOOOOOAAAALLLLL! Peru leads Mississinewa 2-0 with 5 minutes left in the boys game,” one tweet read.

Two days before that, they were reminding students about the National Honor Society blood drive via the social media site.

Peru High School is among a growing list of schools using social media and other technologies both in and out of the classroom.

“It’s something we embraced last year,” Principal Jason Cary said. “It’s just another way to get information out.”

Some of his teachers are finding that it’s more than a way to issue reminders and updates, though.

Last week, some of his cutting-edge teachers showed colleagues how they’re using technology in and out of the classroom. It was a daylong professional development course.

Cary said he even learned a few things from it.

Teachers are using Twitter to engage and interact with professionals such as authors and politicians, who can teach high school students a few lessons. One class was able to speak online with an author because of a meeting set up through the social media site, Cary said.

Some social media tools cut down on the work teachers have to do.

His teachers are using education-related hashtags on Twitter to communicate with educators across the country and share ideas. And educators have their own section on Pinterest to share lesson plans and classroom ideas.

“It’s cutting down the time it takes to create a new assignment or plan a lesson,” Cary said. “The best teachers borrow from each other.”

Peru teachers last week learned how to use Remind 101, a text messaging service created for educators like them. It allows them to send students reminders about assignments or tests.

It’s quickly becoming an essential tool for coaches.

“That’s something that our coaches really grabbed a hold of,” Cary said. “It’s very neat.”

Some teachers are allowing cellphones and tablets in class. A Peru math teacher lets students take quizzes on their phones.

Cary said they’ve received positive feedback from the students. They’re more engaged and excited.

“Kids, that’s their natural environment,” he said. “To act like we shouldn’t have technology in the classroom is ridiculous. These are the kinds of tools they will use in the business world.”

Some teachers are still figuring out how to introduce these technologies and how to do it safely. Digital citizenship is a big part of this technology push, Cary said.

Students and even staff members sometimes have to be reminded about the footprint they leave online and how it can affect them.

When Cary was searching for a secretary this year, he browsed through the candidates’ social media sites before making his decision.

Social media, when used correctly, can transform classrooms, Cary said. He believes so much in its power that he’s planning a professional development course devoted to using Twitter properly.

“This is really going to help them out in the classrooms,” he said.

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com