Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Schools and Social Media

I will never forget sitting in the kitchen of my boyhood home, at the dinner table, with my father holding a "pink slip" that was sent from my math teacher when I was in 7th grade, stating that I was having difficulty passing math. My Dad was troubled by that message, but was compelled to ensure that I would be passing math one way or the other, and he made sure that as a parent, he would follow through appropriately. "Pink slips" were a warning sent out to families every ten weeks. Today we refer to them as interim progress reports.

No matter what they are called, communication is the key concept here. Schools need to excel at communication or be ridiculed as failing to meet the needs of the students and the community.

Imagine if schools used social media tools to converse with parents on things, such as student achievement, class news, and other info-bytes, how wonderful the educational perspective might be for parents, students and community members.

Here are some social media thoughts:

1)     Social media demands what educators do not want to do.

  • Social media demands pure engagement between school leaders and parents/students. Leaders need to compel teachers through their example in using it regularly and consistently. It brings the school and the parents closer together increasing interaction and support.
2)     Social media creates hype, buzz, and spreads the word about school.
  • A district approach to social media PR and promoting info-bytes to the community places the school in a more favorable light to everyone. Announcing everything from school closings, lunch menus, sports activities, concerts, and budget concerns, keeps the school in front of the community.
3)     Social media is instant feedback on a global scale.
  • Imagine getting survey feedback and opinions back from parents, students, and community members instantly or withing a matter of minutes as issues and PR concerns crop up for a school. Policy and practice merge and community interest is there when you need it.
The reality of social media is that it will increase parental and community opinion. But, is that such a bad thing in the long run? As leaders we cannot be fearful of opinion in the public arena. Yes, it is uncomfortable, but it is what we live for in doing our jobs at the public's request.

Social media is a wonderful phenomena for schools to use in moving ahead with 21st Century Learning. Use it, and prosper.