CHICAGO -- When Ed Knight wants to find what his 6-year-old did in school, he can scroll the Twitter feed on his iPhone for clues to start a conversation with his quiet son, who sometimes holds back when recounting details of his day.
That is because Evan and others in first-grade teacher Jodi Conrad's class use Twitter to send out a weekly newsletter, update the days' activities and give parents reminders about upcoming programs.
Conrad's class at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Glen Ellyn, Ill., is among a growing number that use social media and other technology to supplement lessons, even for young students.
"These are tools that come standard in life right now," said Conrad, 36, who controls the account and the messages that the class, as a group, delivers. "I do it outside of class, so why not do it inside?"
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Her students also contribute to a classroom blog, make videos for a private YouTube account intended for parents and write books using computer software.
Like many schools across the country, Glen Ellyn District 41 has equipped its school libraries with iPads, netbooks and laptops that can be checked out. It also has a lab outfitted with desktop computers, said Christina Kellam, technology specialist at District 41.
Conrad and other teachers who use kid-friendly blogging programs and social media are finding the tools are becoming integral parts of their classrooms.
Conrad's class tweeting sessions, which usually come at the end of the day for about 20 minutes, keep communication open with parents and help the kids learn typing, spelling and reading, Conrad said. Getting to push the "tweet" button is also an exciting privilege.
"It's kind of our class meeting at the end of the day," Conrad said. "This is really great for reflection."
Educators are realizing more that modern technology has a place in classrooms, especially since kids are motivated to use the tools, said David Vinca, founder of eSpark, a Chicago-based group that aims to personalize programs for iPad-equipped classrooms.
"Kids actually want to use the technologies, and if we make them education tools, we have kind of a win-win," Vinca said.
Churchill Elementary first-grade teacher Whitney Crouch said her Glen Ellyn students use secure blogging software made especially for classrooms. She said they use it to share ideas or stories, and she sees some who may not be confident writers with paper and pencil soar in front of a laptop.
Crouch, 31, said students like knowing they have an audience for their missives and being able to reach out to their loved ones who may live in other states.
"They see it as something that adults do," Crouch said. "It really builds their confidence."
Starting student training on social media in a safe environment with the guidance of a teacher at a young age also is a valuable tool.
These young students are "going to have an entire life that exists on the Internet in the virtual world," Kellam said. "They need to understand the difference between the different social media tools. Starting in first grade -- I don't see any negative."
For parents, it's a good opportunity to teach young children that technology isn't for entertainment only, Knight said.
"It's not just about computers are good for playing games on," Knight said.