Social Media. It seems to be at the center of so many things these days. With a plethora of options out there including: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube and more, it can be confusing to navigate the internet jargon consisting of tweets, posts, likes, shares, etc and know exactly which forum to settle on to meet your needs. Given this, many of those who are new to the social media circuit often throw in the towel early as it can feel overwhelming and difficult to navigate. Even those who have a relatively good grasp on things, can find it taxing to keep pace with ever changing technology and trends. There is a core group of educators however, including principals that are looking to social media to capitalize on increased communication with staff and parents, share educational information with others in the field and attempt to positively impact school culture through connectedness.
Principals are often looked at as the face of the building that they manage. With a growing list of responsibilities including budgeting, hiring, APPR, crisis management, coordination of ongoing professional development, discipline, communication, arranging family and community functions, etc., the list goes seems to go on and on. With an overflowing plate, many principals seem to believe that they wouldn’t have the time or the knowhow to assume a role of a digital principal. This was @Dwight_Carter’s stance until he realized how powerful Twitter could be in making a positive impact on his school. In his blog “10 Ways Principals Can Use Twitter” he talks about his initial resistance until presented with the opportunity to attend a three day social media boot camp facilitated by Debra Jasper & Betsy Hubbard (of Mindset Digital). In his piece, Carter lists a myriad of different ways in which Twitter can be used to share instructional strategies, exchange stories, engage students and improve communication. Carter’s page is chock full of resources and his influence is undeniable, sharing over twenty thousand tweets and boasting an entourage of more than 8,000 followers on Twitter. For the remaining unconvinced, I encourage you to scroll through his feed for a few minutes and try to deny the impact social media could have on your school climate.
For principals there is also the ability to keep parents and community members updated in real time in the event of a last minute change to a school function, an unforeseen crisis, changes in the school calendar or even reminders to send back forms for school events. Imagine the possibility of being able to send a quick message to parents in real time rather than returning to your office, drafting a letter, proofreading it, making hundreds of copies, stuffing mailboxes, delivering information to students, while crossing your fingers that it actually reaches your intended audience! With a few characters and a couple clicks of a button, communication could be revolutionized. Overall, digital communication saves in terms of time and resources and keeps stakeholders involved and up to date on the building’s happenings.
How about teachers? In the wake of APPR and Common Core, teachers have less time and flexibility to get through the material, let alone, embark on a journey as a digital educator. Coming as a surprise to some, becoming involved in this manner has resulted in some significant savings rather than the loss of time. The number of ideas for eliciting student participation and modifying plans to reach even the most resistant students is uncanny. To increase engagement, teachers are using apps such as twitterfall which allows information to be connected to a hashtag to flow down the screen like a waterfall, employing the use of twtpool to survey their class, challenging students to write a short tweet about predictions or conclusions based on class readings or mention a favorite author, politician or other influential figure as they relate to material being studied in class.
Some of the most powerful and influential educators have inspired countless teachers via social media. An article from Education World highlights some of the best in the business including: @rgriffithjr, @theOCBlog and @coolcatteacher among others. Try following along to gain inspiration for your own learning or teaching, or perhaps follow popular hashtags such as #ntchat, #edchat, #k12, #edapps to help you stay connected to educational topics and trends.
There has been some hesitation to include students in the social media movement however. Opponents have voiced concerns about internet safety, online bullying and improper use of technology in the classroom. Proponents have argued that by granting access to students they are provided with an opportunity to learn about and promote internet safety under the guidance of an educator and encourage interest in a topic by allowing them to engage in something they find meaningful and interesting. It can also be used to quickly communicate with a teacher regarding questions or clarification related to homework or projects, check a teachers page to ensure they are keeping pace with assignments, comment on a blog or article put forth by an instructor and in countless other ways. I believe there is a strong argument here for the chance to foster responsibility, promote independence and grow communication skills. Overall, it appears to cultivate social media literacy which is becoming an essential skill in today’s workforce.