WG, J-D using social networking to their advantage

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking services have proven powerful communication tools worldwide, and following other area districts, the Jamesville-DeWitt School District is taking steps to more fully embrace and monitor the use of such tools in its education.

During the district's Nov. 1 school board meeting, board members established a committee on social media to examine policies adopted in other districts in the Syracuse area. The committee members, Board President Ginnie Murphy and Jack McLoughlin, will present their findings throughout the winter and make policy recommendations to the district.

Murphy said that while many teachers, coaches, choral directors and clubs already use the networking site Facebook to keep in touch with students about meeting times and club events, the district does not have an officially sanctioned and maintained page. Nor can students access the site from school computers, according to J-D Technology Coordinator Philip Luckette.

"If we expand our social networking use, we need policies that prepare us to react properly to new issues as they come up," Luckette said. "A lot of the bullying problems we've seen start outside of school and spill over into the school setting."

West Genesee Central School District, which has extensively incorporated social media into its curriculum, could serve as a model for J-D's social media committee.

Christopher Brown, the superintendent of West Genesee, uses the rapid communication capabilities of Twitter to keep parents, teachers and other administrators informed about day-to-day activities and breaking district news, even decreasing the district's load of incoming phone calls - giving administrators more time to work and interact with students during the day.

"Anyone who follows me on Twitter would know that it is a snow day before the local news on television or radio," said Brown, who has used Twitter for more than two years of his three-year tenure at West Genesee.

Brown said one of the ways in which West Genesee uses the online video-chat programs is to have its classes interact with students from as far away as Japan.

"The digital field trips have had an outstanding response," Brown said. "They're cheaper than school bus trips, and often more rewarding, because students get a chance to interact with people they would never have the chance to otherwise."

Brown said that the strongest advice he could offer to a district that is exploring social networking possibilities is to have clear policies behind the use of the technologies.

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