How many times a day does a parent ask you “What did my child do today in school?” or “How can I better help my child succeed?” As a mathematics educator, I've been thinking of solutions to better connect home and school—starting with Twitter.
A small, but easy and effective way to connect parents, teachers and students is through Twitter hashtags. I suggest using a hashtag that starts with the words “askyour,” a phrase that conveys the idea of communication and dialogue. If you're a grade seven math teacher, you could use the hashtag #askyourmathematician in a private group with the parents of your students. At the end of an exciting math lesson, presentation or school-wide math activity, you could post a tweet about what the students did at school that day. The parents would receive notification in their Twitter accounts labeled as #askyourmathematician. When the student comes home from school and the parent asks “What did you do today at school?” the rote answer of “stuff,” would no longer suffice. It is my hope that this would encourage parents and students to have more dialogue about school math activities, and activities in general. In their 2012 paper, Gunderson, Ramirez, Levine, & Beilock attest that casual interactions between parents and teachers may lead to better interventions promoting student success in mathematics.
Of course, you could tailor your hashtag to something more classroom-specific like #askyouralgebraist," but I think the words “ask your” are the most important part of the hashtag. If you use a hashtag that is generic or boring like #Grade7A, logging onto Twitter may not seem very inviting. Many of us have Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Instagram, and can spend minutes if not hours glued to the computer receiving notifications or instant updates. Helen Popkin reports on CNBC that people in the United States spend an average of 20% of their time on social media websites. This may be because of the feeling of excitement and connection users feel when on these sites. Forbes magazine columnist Brenner in December 2012 wrote an exposé on how even very busy people make time for social media, because they view it as important. And, as Vancouver Sun blogger Gillian Shaw noted, social media has become a standard part of everyday life.
The answer to how to best connect parents, teachers and students may be as simple as bringing the same type of excitement into the classroom. Incorporating the hashtag #askyourmathematician can make your classroom feel more exciting--and most of all-- better connected.
Ashley Nahornick is a doctoral candidate in mathematics education at Teachers College Columbia in New York City.