Malone spent the early years of his career at Revere Public Schools working as a gang mediator. As a certified teacher, his involvement in school safety propelled him into a variety of leadership positions, most recently as the assistant superintendent of schools. As such, Malone helps ensure school and student safety through activities such as monitoring of social media.
Revere Public Schools partnered with a social media monitoring service to track public social media posts pertaining to the schools for safety purposes. Using geofencing, the monitoring service focuses its analysis efforts on school properties within the district. Malone worked with the vendor to set filtering and analysis parameters, scanning posts for words related to violence, drugs, abuse and other high-risk activities. “If you don’t manage the filtering, you’re going to be getting loads of information that is useless. You'll be missing important information,” says Malone.
Monitoring social media has led to some eye-opening events for Malone. For example, he received an alert stating a student, located in a high school gymnasium, had tweeted thoughts of suicide. Malone and his team pinpointed the student’s location and intervened within approximately five minutes of receiving the alert. The student explained the post had been made in jest, but it was a learning experience for all those involved.
Malone says using social media data helps keep students safe and identify patterns in student behavior. “The ability to monitor and get alerts on this level allows us to respond immediately,” he says. “It also helps us to monitor patterns around drug use, violence or depression.” Once he discerns a pattern in the posts, he can better determine next steps, whether that means getting the police involved, providing additional school supports or alerting another agency.
Beyond improving safety, Malone supports the use of social media as a communication tool for students, parents and teachers. While district faculty still primarily communicate with parents via website, printed letter and robo-calls, social media is gaining traction. “We deal with weather and snow closings a lot, and social media becomes a primary source of information. People have learned that if they monitor Twitter, they’ll be notified of schools closing before they receive a phone call,” he says. Malone also helped host a professional development seminar on the use of social media. After the session, most principals and administrators began using Twitter as one of their primary channels of communication with parents.
Malone continually strives to meet the needs of students, whether that is through implementing a 1:1 technology initiative, moving to a flipped classroom model of instruction or monitoring social media — all of which Malone has done. “Monitoring social media is enlightening. You get to see the social landscape of students and overlay that with what you see in an individual school culture, and it adds a whole new dimension to what you’re seeing. It confirms and reaffirms a few things, but it gives you insight into areas you never would have received otherwise,” he says.