As I was walking down the hall the other day, I was struck by some recent student artwork that had been posted by one of our art teachers. I took a few pictures of them on my phone and quickly uploaded them to our Sanborn Regional High School Facebook page with a caption that read, "Check out some of the latest pieces of art by students in Ms. Ladd's class!"

I regularly post pictures and quick updates like this to our school's Facebook page several times a day. These updates, combined with posts of links to blog articles and our weekly newsletter, help our families stay connected to our school community.

The use of social media, with sites like Twitter and Facebook specifically, has dramatically helped our school improve its public relations image with our community and provide our families with real-time communication on upcoming events and important issues.

Our school might be a great example for what EdTech's Matt Renwick recently described in his article "Is Facebook the New School Web Page?" Renwick reported that Facebook users are nearing 1.35 billion worldwide. Years ago, home Internet access varied community by community and household to household, but now with the rise of smart phone technology, even socioeconomic status is rarely a barrier to Internet usage.

The reality is, in most schools, it is fair to say that all but a handful of families have access to social media like Facebook.

To set up a classroom account and ensure student privacy and safety, teachers must follow these simple steps:

  • create the site using professional email to keep it separate from a personal account
  • obtain parent permission to post student images and worked with a school-approved form
  • get the word out about the classroom Facebook page through newsletters and in person
  • provide a link or feed of the Facebook page on the classroom webpage

Renwick also talked about how the social media giant can help a school district communicate. He used the Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools as an example. This district created a Facebook page to deliver announcements and showcase school learning.

Colleen Dickmann, superintendent for Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools, told Renwick, "Using social media allows us, as a school district, to tell our story in the manner we want it told. We can publish stories that otherwise might not make it into the local media's hands."

Using social media in a school is not a new concept, nor is Facebook the only way to communicate. A year ago, writer Mark Guay offered "3 Reasons Why the School Principal Needs to Tweet" in a HuffPost Education article.

First, he says that students need good social media role models to help them learn how to use social media appropriately. Second, he points out that social media is free, and free works in every school budget. Lastly, he says that Twitter and other social media options like Facebook and Pinterest offer school leaders a way to efficiently share the good news of all the things happening in a school community.

For those who argue that social media doesn't fit with their school or school district's policies, consider this. Back in 2011, ASCD's Laura Varlas asked the question, "Can Social Media and School Policies be Friends?" There, Varlas talked about federal legislation that has been passed that allows the two to coexist, specifically the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and the Children's Internet Protection Act.

So, classroom teachers and school principals, it's time for you to like some status updates, pin some pictures and follow some hashtags. Social media is a great way to keep your families connected with your classroom and your school. What are you waiting for?