Want to know what’s happening up-to-the-minute in your children’s Wilton Public School classrooms? It might help to get on Twitter and follow the hashtag #wiltonwayCT.

The Twitter hashtag is an initiative that superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith introduced when he joined the Wilton district in 2014, and he modeled it on something that he’d done previously as superintendent in Bethel. Since his start in Wilton, he has encouraged Wilton teachers and administrators to tweet news, updates and images from day-to-day activities in the classroom, so that parents and community members can see what’s happening in the schools. It’s all part of the emphasis Smith has placed on increased communication and transparency.

During an interview with GOOD Morning Wilton last fall, Smith explained why he was eager to implement the initiative.

“Because most people work and most teachers work in isolation in their classrooms, there aren’t good mechanisms for sharing all the good news that takes place on a minute-by-minute basis in virtually every single one of our classrooms. Accepting the risk, and putting in appropriate parameters, I think we do that and we just start to share what’s going on. What I’ve found, is it creates a genuine sense of excitement about what kids are learning. More often than not, people have no idea because they’re not there seeing it,” Smith said.

He reinforced that concept in one of his newly-introduced, regular “News from the Schools” update letters to parents, encouraging them to check out #wiltonwayCT by saying that the real-time Twitter-verse glimpse into the classroom also “highlights the transformation we have undertaken,” referring to many of the changes Smith and his administrative team have implemented in the year and a half he’s been Wilton’s superintendent.

Smith believes Twitter is one more way to give parents a fuller picture of what their children are doing and learning.

“You know as a mom of a middle schooler, when you say, ‘How was school today,’ and you hear, ‘Fine,’ you can circumvent the ‘Fine’ now. You can say, ‘I saw on your teacher’s Facebook page you’re doing x, y and z, so tell me about that.’ It’s a new opportunity to have a different kind of conversation with your child as well, and a new opportunity to interact with teachers as well,” he said.

Smith is leading the effort top-down, regularly Tweeting the #wiltonwayCT hashtag himself at @DrKevinJSmith95. He told GMW.com that he’s a firm believer in the “opportunity for our teachers to better and more authentically share with parents so they can really get a deeper sense of what their kids are up to,” especially in a place where parents already are spending a good deal of time–on social media like Facebook and Twitter.

One of the people who showed Smith how well that works is Lauren Catalano (@LCatalano42), the new assistant principal at Cider Mill, who was a teacher in Bethel during Smith’s tenure there.

“One of the practices she adopted several years ago that I was taken with was the way she used Facebook to create a portfolio of learning that her parents could access. She created a private page on Facebook, where most adults live these days so it was an obvious choice. She set it up as a closed group and each day she’d post pictures, post video, audio and showcase what the kids were doing and their parents could log in and check it out. Over the course of a year, that builds and you have a 181-day record of all the really cool things that kids in this classroom. I thought that was a tremendous practice, and it became another venue for her to very easily communicate with parents–they can send a message, comment on their kid’s work, they can ask a question. It created a new and very authentic dialog about what was happening in her classroom,” he said, calling it “tremendously successful.”

The effort is an almost 180-degree change from policy that existed prior to Smith’s arrival. Back then, district rules prohibited teachers and parents (and students) from being connected to one another on social media, and digital devices were discouraged from being used in the classrooms and in school buildings. Now, such devices are being used as primary methods for learning and communicating between all the school cohorts.

In fact, the uptick in social media use is one way administrators see for improving school climate, another major initiative the district and the Wilton Board of Education has undertaken by relying on heavy involvement from students and on collaboration with faculty and staff. For example, at Middlebrook Middle School, the School Climate Committee is known as Team Change, which has its own twitter account, @TeamChange06897. According to Smith’s “News” update, “Students are working on a variety of projects including a parody video to introduce members, a Meet Team Change banner, and an activity to get to know the teachers.” In a fun twist bringing everything full circle, one of the recent Team Change tweets showed a photo of Smith demonstrating a much more human, relatable side to students.

To find out a little more about #wiltonwayCT in practice, GMW.com (@gdmorningwilton) decided to use the Twitter medium ourselves to do interviews by Tweet with some of the teachers and parents who are figuring out this new element to classroom communication. We had a Twitter conversation with Catalano in which she said tweeting about Cider Mill classroom news and reading Tweets from other Wilton teachers across the district not only lets faculty communicate with parents but it also has a direct impact on curriculum and teaching.

@gdmorningWilton @MrMathewsClass seeing what’s going on in other schools helps with our curriculum alignment. Also love to brag about CMS!

— Lauren Bird (@LaurenBird42) January 13, 2016

William Mathews (@MrMathewsClass) is an avid Twitter user at Middlebrook. He’s well known for having his 6-Green students build a replica of King Tut’s Tomb, but now he’s becoming just as well known for Tweeting regularly about what’s happening in his class. His tweets even show that #wiltonwayCT is being adapted for narrower interests for people who just want to find out about what’s happening only at Middlebrook (#middlebrookway) or on his team (#sixgreenway).

First day in the #6Gkingtutstomb2016 and the #middlebrookway #sixgreenway Ss are excited to be docents #wiltonwayct pic.twitter.com/6ImDz70osi

— William Mathews (@MrMathewsClass) January 11, 2016

As much as parents can appreciate getting such an immediate look at what their children are doing each day, teachers can also  benefit in a similar way, says Mathews. He uses Twitter as an immediate way to learn, get ideas and see what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.

@gdmorningWilton @LCatalano42 @SuzanaPrata @johnepriest One part for me has been the almost real-time view into what others are doing.

— William Mathews (@MrMathewsClass) January 13, 2016

That sharing and collaboration is something that Smith found really powerful, as he told GMW.com back in September.

“We have some of the best teachers in the country, and I want to showcase their work all over the universe for others to see and emulate. Using #WiltonWayCT and creating that narrative of excellence that takes place here in district is very important.”

For Jennifer Angerame (@southrnyankee), a Wilton parent who is already a frequent Twitter user, recently learning about #wiltonwayCT is something that made her very happy.

@gdmorningWilton in today’s world, we need 2 b reminded of why we chose #WiltonCT, and how fun to hv a peek into a school day

— JenAldingerAngerame (@southrnyankee) January 13, 2016