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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Are You Leveraging the Power of Social Media?

By Brad Currie — July 22, 2014 4 min read
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Today’s guest blog is written by ASCD Emerging Leader Brad Currie. Brad is the co-founder of #satchat on Twitter and the Middle School Vice Principal and Supervisor of Instruction for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ .

It’s summertime. A great time to reflect on the past year, and look to the one that is right around the corner. As leaders, you have already done a great deal of work to prepare for the new year. As teachers, many of you have begun to buy supplies out of your hard-earned pockets, and you are trying to refresh and re-engage.

One question for you...have you tried to get connected? Do you leverage the power of social media?

I know what you’re thinking...you’re tired of reading blogs about social media. The reality is that the relationships you can create with educators through developing a professional learning network (PLN) are authentic and engaging.

But social media is about more making new friends and meeting new colleagues on Twitter or Facebook. It’s about much, much more...

So many educators leverage the power of social media, technology, and available web tools to activate stakeholder engagement. As a parent and community member myself, I came to realization that I must do a better job of staying “in the know” of all the great things that are happening in my children’s school.

Knowledge is power and there is no better way to stay informed or involved than by utilizing technology to your advantage. Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, are now an extension of our body and we look to real time information through web applications. Seeking out information or participating in a school function is just a few clicks or taps away.

Throughout the world of education, school stakeholders take advantage of available resources to promote the success of students. In my new book, All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities (Corwin Press), I share personal experiences of how in a few short years I was able to captivate a virtual audience by telling our school’s story through social media.

I encourage you to:

  • Set up a school Twitter handle called @BlackRiverMS. The feed is linked to our Facebook page which pushes out the same information.
  • Create and maintain a Pinterest page that serves as an archive for online content pertaining to school happenings.
  • Ensured that those stakeholders who are not connected have an opportunity to view social media content by running feeds on school webpage.

I have fellow PLN members from around the world who make it their personal mission to do the same. Make no mistake about it, the reality is that schools can not just rely on technology in order to engage stakeholders. The combination of authentic real time relationships coupled with available web tools can do wonders in strengthening a school’s culture.

One great example...

Carrie Jackson, Principal of Timberview Middle School in Texas. She leverages the power of Instagram to engage stakeholders through pictures. The hundreds of followers is a testament to what people like and expect to stay current. On a personal note, I recently started using Instagram for our school and students love it. They truly enjoy seeing what’s going on in other grade levels and subject areas during the school day.

There are many, many other ways for schools and stakeholders connect through social media. Try the following:

  • Provide students with an opportunity to maintain a weekly podcast highlighting proud moments from the past week on a web tool like SoundCloud.
  • Create a stakeholder Voxer group that provides updates of important information.
  • Set up a hashtag that can be followed by school stakeholders across multiple social media platforms.

Community involvement should be a constant focus. We all know how valuable authentic relationships are with local businesses. Whether it’s holding a Career Day or conducting an OnAir Google Hangout with a local veterinarian, the options are many. Taking advantage of available technology to bring the classroom to the community and vice versa is no longer an option. Now more than ever, schools have a multitude of ways that they can embrace available technology and web tools to strengthen present relationships.

In 2014, we should not have a majority of our stakeholders saying that we, as leaders, don’t communicate well. It may have taken us a few years to figure out the bumps. We have had to get used to new tools, and learn how to find a balance between when we can Tweet, e-mail, have a personal conversation or make a phone call.

There is simply no better time than for school leaders to engage teachers, students and parents in a variety of ways that will help us become a more tightknit community. Over the past few years I have established very strong relationships with so many wonderful people in large part because of Twitter. Their ideas, particularly related to activating stakeholder engagement, has transformed how I lead and connect.

If you take the All Hands on Deck approach to leading, you will walk away with a handful of ideas that will invigorate everyone to take a vested interest in their schools. There is no doubt that the combination of available devices, web applications, and social media outlets has changed the educational conversation for the better.

Connect with Brad on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.