Rocklin schools ‘friend’ social networking

By: Teresa O'Hanlon
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The mobile web is a rising force in popular culture and a number of Rocklin schools have enrolled Facebook and Twitter to stay instantly connected with their families. According to a 2010 study by public relations giant, Ruder Finn, Americans spend almost three hours a day on their mobile phones, posting everything from social tweets to photo sharing. Probably a no brainer that schools would eventually tap into social networking tools. In Rocklin, nine public schools offer some form of social networking. Whitney High School Activities Director Jason Feuerbach started saving time and money when he set up the school’s Facebook account in 2009. With 1,200 fans, Feuerbach has found Facebook messages to be more successful than e-mails and automated phone blasts. Wildcat homecoming ticket prices are advertised on the student body Facebook page and one application allows students to print guest passes at home. “You know how kids are nowadays,” Feuerbach said. “They check their Facebook non-stop. We don’t even print out guest passes at the student store anymore. It’s a way for us to cut the costs of a lot of paper and printing. It’s a way to get information to 1,200 people right now.” Whitney High School sophomore Sammy Mitchell spends about 30 minutes every evening checking on her Facebook activity. “They’ll post when we have rallies and dances or spirit days,” Mitchell said. “There are always new groups like we have Whitney Broadcasting and Whitney Details which is yearbook. So the school gives us daily news, like when to buy a yearbook and how much they cost. Students can post on their profiles and let everyone know what’s going on. They can ask questions and get answers quickly. People can also post videos and pictures.” Students aren’t the only ones with Facebook friends. Twin Oaks Elementary Principal Sarah James set up the school’s Facebook account as an adjunct to e-mail and website announcements. “It’s part of a go-green way of living,” James said. “We’re still small right now. I think we have only 84 fans so it’s not a primary source of information. It’s just one more way to keep parents posted depending on their favorite method of information. We’re just trying to access our parent community in all the different ways possible so we can meet their needs.” At Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, a Rocklin charter school serving middle and high school students, the micro-blogging tool Twitter is an option for parents who want instant access to school news. Not a family reunion like Facebook, tweeting involves to-the-point messages in 140 words or less. Kim Dvorak heads Western Sierra’s parent group and has found parents are more likely to respond when the message is kept simple. “It gets an instant communication out for a need where a parent can volunteer,” Dvorak said. “What’s fabulous about Twitter – it’s the specific point of the communication. It’s almost like texting.” While communication is the primary reason Western Sierra uses Twitter, school administrators foresee the benefits of social media as a collaborative tool for professional development. “We are just beginning to explore the benefits of social media,” said Western Sierra Principal Steven Carney. “A lot to learn. We are looking forward to the opportunity to reach our parents, students and community in a variety of ways.” As social media goes to school, teachers and administrators have new opportunities to study applications that take classrooms outside school walls. With PBS Education reporting 29 percent of teachers are already using social networking for classroom instruction, it may only be a semester or two before social media becomes just another tool for the lesson plan.