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School Leaders Use Twitter to Spread Information, Engage Students

If there's a possible upside for the school administrators who've had to deal with a brutal winter and scores of missed days, perhaps it's that the students they are responsible for are finding some of them, well, more human.

All thanks to those 140-character tweets composed, in increasing numbers, by superintendents and school leaders. Twitter has become the go-to venue for spreading school district news and information, most especially those highly sought-after decisions about school closures and delays this time of year.

Some Ohio superintendents are reporting that Twitter followers have expanded rapidly in the new year, as students in their districts have closely tracked any and all announcements about school being called off. A story in the Columbus Dispatch quotes one supe as saying that he likes the direct link that Twitter has given him to students. In turn, students say they appreciate seeing the personality and wit come through in tweets of distant administrators 

In Fairfax County, Va., Ryan McElveen, a school board member who is a prolific tweeter, saw his number of Twitter followers explode from 160 to more than 16,000 since late last year when he announced that schools would be shut down a full half-hour before word went out on the district's official Twitter account. That scoop prompted droves of ecstatic students to retweet his announcement and follow him on Twitter.

Of course, there are potential downsides to engaging with students in a forum like Twitter, where many of them are unrestrained in their opinions and feelings. In December, the superintendent in Montgomery County, Md., sent a letter to parents calling for "cybercivility" after students sent tweets he described as offensive and threatening. 

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