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Posted: August 10, 2013 8:13 p.m.

Tweeting into a new school year

NCSS educators embrace Twitter

Twitter has chirped its way into Newton County Schools.

With another school year under way, NCSS administrators, teachers and students are becoming more interactive on the social media site Twitter. Created accounts are starting to connect everyone in the school system.

NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said it’s her natural desire and the school system’s goal to have Newton County Schools be known as "the best," and with the support of the school system’s employees, that goal is attainable.

She has created a Twitter account for herself, @FuhreySamantha, and has also encouraged school administrators, teachers and even school board members to jump on board to send out positive messages about things going on in the school system.

"One of the strategies employed in our strategic framework and plan requires our teachers and staff to integrate technology," Fuhrey said.

"The use of Twitter is a natural next step for us as we work to improve staff morale, instructional techniques and student achievement. Twitter has also served as a professional learning tool, as teachers share ideas, research, their work and the work of their students."

The slogan, or hash-tag, on the social media site, #NCSSBETHEBEST, is mentioned at the end of her tweets (a 140-word message on Twitter), which Fuhrey said is the overall goal of what the school system is aiming to be.

Fuhrey said the slogan reflects a collective effort to "be the best." The slogan, in and of itself, she said, prompts everyone working in the school system to think about their individual efforts and actions.

"Everyone is accountable for the impact of their actions. We want to be the best, so everything we do has to lead us there," she said.

Twitter has already started catching on with administrators, Board of Education members and at several schools in the system.

Each of the high schools has Twitter accounts, which include @AlcovyHS for Alcovy High School; @EHS_Eagles for Eastside High School; @Newton_High for Newton High School. In addition, the Newton County School System also has an account, @NewtonCoSchools; Newton County Theme School @nctheme; and a list of others has been developed.

At @AlcovyHS (Alcovy High School), teachers have already been tweeting about what is being taught in their classrooms, and attaching photos. And some educators have even said they hope to integrate Twitter into their lesson plans.

AHS business and technology teacher Michelle Finley, who’s in charge of the school’s Twitter account, said students in her business technology and business law classes, will most likely be using Twitter in the classroom. She said the goal of adding Twitter is to open up more classroom discussions.

"I’ll post a question, as far as something that they’ve got to research and then they just have to tweet back, like their thoughts in the little article that they read," Finley said. "We’re going to use it more like a blog."

"We are going to use it for when they find good ideas as far as technology. When they find something cool at home, I want them to tweet what they found so that we can use it in class," she said.

Finley said students will use their school email address to develop a Twitter account so that they can use their account for school. Finley said she has gone over rules for the appropriate uses of Twitter in the classroom.

As for running the school’s Twitter account, Finley said AHS teachers have to fill out a Twitter request form and have to get approval before anything is posted to the school’s Twitter account. She said she is excited about the whole idea of using the social network in the school system.

"I think it’s awesome because being in your own classroom, you don’t see what’s going on in the other people’s classrooms," she said. "It’s a good for idea sharing, [and] it’s pretty cool to see that people are doing pretty exciting stuff."

AHS advanced placement biology teacher Felicia Richardson said though her students haven’t started tweeting in class, she’s been tweeting what they’ve been learning in the classroom.

Richardson or @FMRichardson40 as she is professionally known on Twitter, also believes that using the social media site will be beneficial to students. Richardson said though she isn’t the most technologically-proficient person, she’s learning.

"I think what it does is give them a new aspect on being able to connect technology, which is a part of science," Richardson said. "We’re trying to bridge it together to get them to learn the materials that they need in science so that they can be successful."

Alcovy High School’s principal Sandra Owens, @Drsjowens, said she’s also had to learn the ropes of Twitter, but said it’s something she’s doing for the students.

"For us older folks, it’s a little bit more challenging …, but again that’s what’s part of being an educator; for me to help prepare the students, I need to step up to the plate," Owens said.

"I think it’s great that she (Superintendent Fuhrey) is leading the way. Seeing her do it helps ease some of my tensions. So, it’s a little frightening for me, but again, that’s what we need to do to help our kids."

Fuhrey said creating an account on Twitter, or using social networking, is not a requirement for anyone in the school system, but she said she hopes it’ll be used because it has "tremendous potential for communication" with students.

"It’s a great way to showcase the hard work and expertise of all of our employees and learn about the great things going on in the school system."

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