Twitter has proven to be a mainstream method for professional communication. Do you believe this? We bet not. If you are reading this blog, then you know EdWeek uses Twitter to call attention to their articles, research, promote conferences and blogs. The NY Times uses Twitter to highlight articles and send out news as it is happening. CNN continuously tweets the stories they are covering. Although is no surprise, Twitter Counter reports the top 100 tweeters (chosen for the number of followers) are almost exclusively celebrities (Justin Bieber is #1). The more important news is that President Obama is 4th and the Dali Lama is 86th, both making it to the top 100. Peppered in, of course, are the NY Times and CNN, Oprah and Ellen, Taylor Swift and the Kardasians.
The fact is people with all kinds of interests are using this medium to communicate for different reasons. On Tuesday, March 27th, the NY Times reported that the trending topic on Twitter was #MarriageEquality. The article appeared in the Fashion and Style section, which may indicate a hesitation for declaring Twitter as mainstream, but they reported it just the same.
This blog has caused us to step off the periphery and into the Twitter environment. As we began blogging and communicating with our growing number of Twitter followers, it appeared that many of those retweeting or replying on Twitter were teachers. This is not to the exclusion of some progressive superintendents and principals, but most of our Twitter followers are teachers interested in leadership issues. Certainly this is not a true research sample, but we have also asked the experience of other colleagues on social media about our observation. We were told that it seems generally true teachers tweet and administrators don’t. This may be the observation of a few, but it made us wonder. What would be the reason for that?
In 2011 Ned Potter (thewikiman.org), an academic librarian at the University of York, developed a presentation on the 7 reasons people give for not using Twitter. Perhaps you may recognize some of the reasons he cites:
I don’t understand it.
It is time for us to let go of the idea that Twitter is used to circulate gossip, irrelevant information or inflammatory calls to action. There are people who use social media for that purpose but that is not the reason leaders of public schools should consider its use. The New York State Commissioner of Education has invited school leaders to follow him on Twitter. What is causing presidents, religious leaders, commissioners and superstars to use Twitter?
Sixteen years ago, Albert Bandura, David Starr Jordan Professor of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University, wrote, “Technological innovations are embedded in the network structures and power relations of organizations. Adoption of innovations, therefore, can have sociostructural reverberations. Early adopters of beneficial technologies not only increase their productivity but can gain influence in ways that change the structural patterns of organizations” (p. 459). That is the reason school leaders should use Twitter.
Twitter allows us to be in exchange with others. Ok, it is not dialogue, nor is it long and thoughtful treatise on complex issues. Tweets are limited to 140 characters after all. But, it does create a conversation of sorts. What educational leader does not need a conversation with the community he/she leads? Our POTUS has an open Twitter account. Anyone can subscribe. Here is one of his Tweets:
“Reading is important. If you know how to read then the whole world opens up to you. http://OFA.BO/wtHxcT #EasterEggRoll”
Harvard Education Tweets. Here is one from them:
“If kids don’t graduate from high school, the odds of them being civically engaged are virtually zilch.” --Diana Hess #civics”
You get the picture.
We acknowledge there are things that need to be learned before broadcasting your school’s news. Those considerations are serious ones and they should be addressed before beginning. Here are some very basic pointers:
Celebrate good news
Allow followers outside of your intended audience
There are many more resources on the use of Twitter than we can recommend. You can learn the about the safe use of Twitter, the use of hashtags (#), and the best way to write abbreviated tweets just to name a few. Begin a search on your favorite search engine. Consider the value of Twitter as another new type of conversation to help connect with your community. (This last sentence is only 101 characters long. You can have up to 140!)
Bandura, Albert. (1997). Self-Efficacy. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
Connecting with Ann and Jill on Twitter is welcomed!
The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 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.