Chawanakee Unified School District is Fearless with Social Media

At USC Rossier, we believe teachers can change the world — not just one student at a time, but one school at a time and one school district at a time. That’s why we develop strong partnerships with school districts and organizations across the nation to work together to improve teacher education and K–12 learning.

One of our partner districts is the Chawanakee Unified School District (USD), located in the Sierra Foothills of Madera County, just outside Fresno, California. Chawanakee USD is an innovative, high-tech school district with seven schools including elementary, high school and alternative programs.

Chelsea “Sheriff” Geraci-Milliorn, MEd, is a geography and U.S. history teacher at Minarets High School in the Chawanakee USD. Her e-mail signature alone shows how involved she is at the school and the innovation she brings to the classroom. It includes: “Leadership, Activities & Cheer Director, MWH, U.S. History, Geography Educator/Facilitator and EF Tours Group Leader,” and the quotation, “Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties” by Gail Sheehy. She’s been using social media in the classroom, and we thought we’d ask her more about how she uses Twitter in the classroom.

Here’s our Q&A with the “Sheriff.”

Can Twitter be useful in the classroom?
Yes, especially if you treat it like part and parcel to your regular set of tools and skills.

How do you use Twitter in the classroom?
Twitter is an instant online class created by the hashtag (#). As long as students use some designated hashtag determined by the teacher, all posts and discussions will go to the same place, and it is recorded.

Has it been effective?
Yes! Twitter has been the instant online classroom AND survey tool. I routinely have my students tweet their favorite and least favorite part of a lesson. This gives me feedback in real time and allows me to make the necessary changes so that I can provide nearly ideal customized lessons.

Why do you think it particularly resonates with your students?
Plain and simple: They are digital natives. They expect me to know the language and its nuances…when in Rome and all…

How did you get the nickname “The Sheriff”?
I used to be a correctional officer with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department. Additionally, I run my Leadership and Activities class like the sheriff’s department. It is my brand, it has no gender, it is powerful and the connotation is to protect and serve. My “brand” has an unspoken promise that I am committed to you, our relationship and your education.

Why did you choose to work in Chawanakee Unified School District?
There is an element of fearlessness about CUSD, from the top down. From administration, to staff, to parents and, ultimately, to the students, this community comes from a place of “yes” and a willingness to TRY everything!!

What is unique about Chawanakee Unified School District?
Much like the community that surrounds this campus, this place is pioneering philosophies of education, relationships and results. There seems to be an unexplainable source of energy for this intention as well.

We noticed your awesome profile page on the Minarets High School website. Is this something all teachers do for their pages?
Thank you for the kind words. Yes, we all have them, and I think this was Mike and Jon’s idea. This idea is supported throughout every department, and the kids make their own as well.

What is your favorite part of teaching at Minarets High?
The kids — such a rich combination of so many different types of kids. This is the first school I have ever been to that the “brainy” kids hold sway. It’s about time.

How has your school supported your use of technology and digital media in the classroom?
We are an Apple Distinguished School and retain over 60% of our staff as Google Certified Teachers. We are a complete 1 to 1 school. Every single kid, every single teacher — there is not a single textbook here, save that of a teacher’s edition. There is a concerted and transparent philosophy that we are global citizens and therefore connected to the entire world, like it or not.

What tips would you give to teachers who want to use Twitter with their students?
Don’t treat it as a treat or freedom, just another tool like a student’s (cough, cough) textbook or film or guest speaker.

What should teachers be aware of when using Twitter in the classroom?
Just like everything else, you are going to have those students who will challenge your intentions and expectations. Let’s be honest: Many adults do this very thing every day. As a teacher using technology, it will be important to be vigilant. The best way I know how is to “police” the situation — to make being “irresponsible” with social media A HUGE DEAL … and vice versa. Rewarding many and frequently those who are doing the right thing even when no one is watching (integrity).

Find out more about social media at Minarets High School, and check out the Minarets High School Social Media Guide!

Want to meet other educators using twitter? Try out #edchat next Tuesday at noon EST or 7 p.m. EST.

Have you used Twitter in your classroom? Tell us how in the comments below!