In some states, the 2020-21 school year is already underway. Others are preparing to start the fall semester any day now.

Those districts and schools that are starting off with distance learning are faced with two challenging tasks: delivering equitable, quality education and keeping students and families connected, engaged, and informed virtually. To accomplish these goals, several institutions, as well as individual teachers, are employing new and tried-and-true social media strategies along with more traditional forms of communication.

Using Social Networking to Fill Gaps

In many ways, social media is being used to capture several of the activities and experiences that are typically associated with the start of a new school year when students get back into the swing of things. Private social networks in particular have become online places where parents and students can connect and enjoy a sense of community. Whether you’re a parent or educator, here are a few ways you can use social media to communicate and collaborate with the school community while children are involved in distance learning:

1. Welcome Videos and Updates

Schools at all levels are creating “welcome back” videos for students with montages of faculty and staff. This is also a good way for school board members and administrators to usher in the new school year and impart district-wide messages to families. However, not every video you use has to be formal. You can start weekly video challenges on your private social network, encouraging families to submit short clips based on a specific theme, such as how they’re doing physical education at home, books they are reading that week, or science experiments they are trying. Even just photo challenges—such as “First Day of School” photos—can be a fun way for community members to feel connected.

2. Live-Streaming Announcements, Activities

Going live on social media is also a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. In an academic setting, you can go live with your morning announcements each day or host a daily storytime for preschoolers. Teachers should also feel free to go live on the social network to share information with the school community. You don’t have to worry about these types of video being polished or professional. The candid nature of live communication makes it feel all the more personal—as if you were actually talking with people face-to-face on campus.

3. Sharing Curriculum and Ideas

Social media sites are also becoming indispensable as a place for individuals within a school district—including parents, teachers, and administrators—to share links to resources, instructions for fun at-home activities, and ideas for anything that might enrich distance learning, especially for preschoolers and elementary-aged students. The important thing is to set guidelines for the type of material that should be disseminated and how to maintain a positive virtual environment where everyone feels welcome.

4. Setting Up Pods and Playdates

Many families are scrambling to figure out how to balance their student’s distance learning with work schedules and other responsibilities. As a response, some families are creating small pods, with one or two parents overseeing all the students from among those families on a given day so the others can work. The next day, one or two other parents watch the kids, helping them log on to their devices at the right time and do their synchronous instruction with their teachers. If you are interested in setting up or joining a pod of families with similar-aged students in your district or at the preschool level, your school’s private social network is a good place to start. You can also coordinate playdates and other small-group activities that meet your state’s social-distancing guidelines but enable your children to interact with their peers.

5. Keeping the Arts Alive

Arts-related extracurriculars have been hit especially hard during COVID-19, but many schools plan to maintain their choir, band, theater, and other such programs in the new school year. In lieu of traditional performances, students will likely be putting together, recording, and/or live-streaming virtual productions. Checking out these events is important to help students feel supported and to sustain these vital programs.

Strengthening School Communities During New Academic Year

Social media has the potential to feel several gaps in terms of communication, collaboration, and connection. However, as privacy and security are major concerns, especially where minors are involved, you should consider moving your school community onto a private social network like Go2s. The  Go2s platform contains many of the same features as public social media sites, but you have the space and ability to build a real online community with people you care about and trust.