Education

Local schools gaining global attention through use of social media

Some local school districts are using social media to promote activities happening at its schools. Administrators said it’s a way to get out quick information easily, and in a timely manner, but also target people from outside of the area.
Some local school districts are using social media to promote activities happening at its schools. Administrators said it’s a way to get out quick information easily, and in a timely manner, but also target people from outside of the area. Photo provided

Social media has the power to reach a global audience.

When Nabil Mark live streamed the State College Area homecoming parade last month on Facebook, a commenter posted, “Watching my hometown parade from Paris.”

The district’s website and social media coordinator said it was a feel-good moment that put the impact of his work into perspective.

“That’s the thing — while we can track numbers and use analytics, you never truly know the (effect) we are having on people,” Mark said. “Google can’t measure the look on that girl’s face and the joy it brought her.”

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are most popular types of social media used at local school districts

The district primarily uses its website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts.

“We have found these platforms to be the most effective for our district, but I am constantly watching and monitoring other outlets to make sure we are using the best methods,” Mark said. “Things change so fast these days and we want to be a leader in this realm so it’s important to be up to date.”

Like State College Area, some other local school districts also are hitting the digital game hard.

Administrators said posting news about their districts to social media sites is more efficient than solely using the schools’ website, for quick-hit information in simple, yet effective means.

But the increased use of social media comes with new policies, which allow district leaders to promote their schools and activities while monitoring what’s posted in a way that creates a positive online climate but doesn’t violate the free speech of others.

Bald Eagle Area is a rural school district that serves residents in the Mountaintop and Upper and Lower Valley regions of Centre County.

While it’s one of the smaller districts locally, social media is giving the district attention beyond the valleys.

Websites, in a way, have become a place for stagnant information, which is why we’re big advocates of social media. It’s a fast and easy way to exchange information. The website generally stays the same, but social media is constantly updated.

Jim Orichosky, Wingate Elementary Principal, BEA director of elementary education and district’s social media guru

“Websites, in a way, have become a place for stagnant information, which is why we’re big advocates of social media,” Jim Orichosky said. “It’s a fast and easy way to exchange information. The website generally stays the same, but social media is constantly updated.”

As the district’s director of elementary education, Orichosky took it upon himself to help spearhead the district’s digital campaign, which includes updating Facebook pages and Twitter feeds for its schools.

Each school in the district has its own Facebook page. Howard and Wingate elementary schools also have a Twitter account. Other individual groups like the district’s athletics and music departments also have their own Facebook and/or Twitter pages that are monitored by the people who lead those groups.

Those who follow the district’s Facebook pages are primarily local, Orichosky said.

Its Twitter feeds, on the other hand, are what have more influence to people outside of the county.

“We know we at least have the attention of people around Pennsylvania, and I wouldn’t put it passed others having access to what we’re doing from other places around the world,” Orichosky said.

When state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera visited Wingate Elementary School, Orichosky, who’s also the school principal, said he sent a tweet to Rivera.

“He retweeted that, and that showed me BEA is on the map beyond just locally,” Orichosky said.

School districts have specific policies that target internet use, including the use of social media

But part of social media is monitoring content posted to the sites.

Penns Valley Area has a board-approved policy called, “Acceptable Use of the Internet, Computers and Network Resources.”

It defines inappropriate material as anything that is defamatory; lewd, vulgar or profane; threatening; harassing or discriminatory; bullying; and terroristic.

The district has the right to restrict access to violators.

It’s a similar policy to what other districts enforce.

But administrators said the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to using social media.

“I’m a big believer in this type of world where if we’re putting up positive messages, then we get back positive responses,” Orichosky said. “It’s a great resource for us to promote that our schools are more than just a SPP (School Performance Profile) score. We realize technology isn’t going away, so we can either embrace it and make it work to our advantage, or forget about it and let people lose interest in our schools.”

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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