Learning lessons through social media

By Anthony Antoine | aantoine@wcia.com

Published 02/05 2014 10:13AM

Updated 02/05 2014 10:20AM

MONTICELLO -- It's becoming more common in the headlines; teachers texting and tweeting students. They cross the line and get into inappropriate situations. WCIA-3's Anthony Antoine has more.

Many of us carry our cell phones around all the time. It's what keeps us connected to everyone and everything around us.

Students in Central Illinois are no exception, but sometimes that connectivity can cause problems. One teacher works hard to connect with his students without crossing the boundaries.

The days of relying on a computer to access the internet are long gone. The smartphone revolution puts the world wide web in the palm of your hands.

It's also inside the classroom. Tyler Germain teaches English at Monticello High School. He noticed a trend in the way his students were getting information, so he changed his approach.

"This year, in my classroom, I started using Twitter as a teaching tool."

Research shows 95% of kids 12 - 17 use the internet. 80% use social media like Twitter.

"When new things are happening and changing, rather than shying away from that, I think it's good to embrace that stuff and use it as new and different ways to reach out and educate your kids."

Germain uses hash-tags to send out homework reminders and re-tweets links to materials they couldn't cover in class.

"If I can talk to my kids or reach out to my kids and have them think about my class or something that pertains to my class between when they see me and when they see me again, it's a huge advantage."

Students are responding.

"I like it a lot. It's really interesting in class when we use it. It's just another way to be interactive and make things more interesting. And if other students have questions, they tweet the questions and you get responses really quickly."

But, that connection can also be cause for concern. Stories of inappropriate conduct littler national headlines, putting a black cloud over teachers using technology and social media to reach students.

It's even dominated the dialogue in Central Illinois. Bryan Reynolds' case is making its way through Champaign County's court system. He's accused of texting lewd pictures of himself to a former student in Rantoul.

"You hear those stories in the media, but that's a very small percentage of what goes on with social media in schools."

Vic Zimmerman is superintendent of Monticello Schools.

"You have to get the kids where they're at and they're connected to technology."

Zimmerman encourages use of social media.

"The best instruction in education that we can provide, our kids utilize the tools that they use on a daily basis. So, we do what we can to promote and encourage the use of those devices and technology to enhance the overall instruction in our classrooms."

For him, teachers who are up-to-date on technology create a better learning environment for kids. The school has a social media policy outlining the do's and don't's. But, Zimmerman says, from the time he was in school until now some things have changed, some haven't.

"The rules haven't changed for what's appropriate conduct and what's inappropriate conduct."

As for Germain, he recognizes those rules and works to stay within the boundaries.

"You always want to maintain that level of professionalism. You always hear about the negative stuff and you definitely don't want to be a part of that negative stuff, especially when it's a tool that can be used for so many positives."

Germain says he's seeing more participation from his students, especially the ones who are too shy in class use Twitter to ask questions. It allows him to be a better teacher.

New teachers are not necessarily being taught how to navigate students on social media, but some professors say it's a topic worth exploring in the future.

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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