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In K-12 Education, Consider Social Media’s Plusses Outweighing the Cons, a Superintendent Panel Enthusiastically Touts

With a title like “Social Media & Education: Oh My!,” you might have expected fireworks at this AASA conference panel discussion Thursday.

If so, you would have been wrong.

The panelists — Gustavo Balderas, superintendent of the Beaverton School District in Oregon; Steve Langford, Beaverton’s chief information officer; Nick Polyak, superintendent of the Leyden Community High School District 212; and moderator Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking – all stressed social media’s potential as an asset rather than a liability.

“The positive,” Polyak said, “far outweighs the negative.”

There are, though, some challenges. Schools need to take proactive measures to counter malicious and fraudulent accounts, especially those that target students, faculty and staff.

This can be difficult, as schools lack dedicated verification and reporting mechanisms from major social media players like Facebook and Instagram. Several groups, including Krueger’s organization and the National School Public Relations Association, were applauded for recognizing these problems and moving to solve them.

The panelists used several real-world examples to illustrate effective strategies for blocking bad actors.

However, most of the session was devoted to highlighting the advantages of using social media for innovative and timely communication. In fact, while social media was not initially designed for educational purposes, they are now key components of most school districts’ communication campaigns.

These platforms can help school districts engage with students’ families, sharing information quickly, strengthening links between classrooms and homes. They are also ideal storytelling tools, allowing schools to create compelling narratives about education.

Social media will continue to evolve, the panelists all agreed, and there will be new challenges and opportunities. The former will need to be combatted, the latter embraced.

By adopting ethical practices, setting clear expectations and fostering positive engagement, schools can use social media’s power to strengthen relationships with their communities and promote education.

(Tara Parr is supervisor of communication and technology systems for the Perkiomen Valley School District in Spring City, Pa.)

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