Social media making the grade in Chilliwack schools

Chilliwack, school district 33, superintendent Michael Audet, social media, Twitter, Facebook, blogs

Social media is no longer the enemy in the eyes of teachers and school administrators.

In fact, many in the Chilliwack school district are embracing it. Several teachers are filling up the Twitter feed, have created school-related blogs, and posted curriculum and schedules to individual class websites.

District officials have taken note.

One of the four pillars in the Chilliwack school district’s strategic plan, which was updated in 2010, is an integration of technology.

After years of chasing the “latest and greatest” in technology, the school district is now focusing on how to use technology to better serve its school community.

“We’ve spent a lot of time looking at technology as technology,” said superintendent Michael Audet. “But what we’re trying to focus on now is how can we use technology to help our students be more successful in school, how can we use technology to make our jobs easier, how can we use technology to have reciprocal, interactive communication with parents, staff, students?”

But Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? How does that better student achievement?

It strengthens communication, said Audet – another of the strategic plan’s four pillars.

The school community is changing. Students today have grown up with iPods, iPads, smartphones, and regularly communicate via social media. As do many of their parents.

As well, with jobs and extracurricular activities and other such responsibilities, it’s not always possible for parents to attend meetings.

With social media, more people can contribute to the conversation.

“We know that the best kind of communication is face-to-face, but sometimes that’s not possible,” said Audet.

“What we’re seeing in social media is a potential for sharing and discussing information that engages people in a two-way conversation and provides us with feedback without having to go face-to-face. We’re now seeing social media as a way of having interactive communication with more people.”

However, there’s still a grey area with social media.

Currently the district does not have a set of guidelines in place for staff who represent the district in blogs and on sites like Twitter.

“There doesn’t seem to be a clear rule book established,” said Audet.

“We need people to understand that if they say they’re an employee of the Chilliwack school district, there is a message they need to keep in mind, they need to be transparent, authentic, consistent.

“We have to do our due diligence to make sure that happens.”

District administration are working on developing guidelines.

Audet hopes that by tapping into social media, the school district will see more participation from parents and the larger school community.

“We need to reach as much of our audience as we can,” said Audet.

“We know that parents are invested in this, and we want to engage those parents, we want them to join the conversation. Will social media provide us with an opportunity to reach more people with our message, ask questions, get feedback? Probably.”

The Chilliwack school district’s Twitter handle is twitter.com/Chilliwacksd33.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33