A: Love it or hate it, social media is a great way to continue the learning outside the studio. Many sites allow you to connect with students in a secure environment; you can create a Facebook group or a Google+ circle, for example. But those sites’ privacy policies are constantly updated, and if you’re not diligent, students may be in contact with you in unexpected or inappropriate ways. (Plus, Facebook owns anything put on their site.)
A favorite site of teachers is Edmodo. Launched in 2008, it’s like a mini-Facebook, but solely for education. Kids like it because it’s online, and teachers can network with educators in their school or others in their subject area nationwide. It’s free to get started, and its interface is very user-friendly if you’re familiar with Facebook. (There’s also a free app for Apple and Android devices.) A home page newsfeed shows online discussions or posted content, and users can control who sees uploaded content—whether it’s sent to a group of students, parents or other teachers.
Edmodo also helps you get a sense of how your students feel. You can poll students for their reactions to certain activities, or post quizzes to learn what they may be confused about. Since students can vote anonymously, you are likely to get a truer sense of the class. You can also send feedback to students privately to encourage them or inspire them to try harder. In many ways, your site can become an online forum for discussions you don’t have time for in class. Students can ask questions, and you can take time to think through an answer. Progress reports let you to track students’ test scores or grades, and there’s a calendar for private tasks or group events.
Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends School in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.
Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld