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Social Media for School Leaders

by Miguel Guhlin
teachers in a meeting

Ever wish parents in your school could turn on their smartphone and see a moment-by-moment update of how their child is learning? Blending social media with websites, you can share powerful stories, stories that feature your school’s children. This blog entry provides five tips you can put into place for success.

Why Do It

This past weekend, a teacher cornered me at a social event. “I don’t get why we need social media in school. It’s a distraction,” she said. She missed the point of social media in the classroom, the principal’s office, and the board room.

“We’ve found Twitter to be a really effective mode for two-way communication–where it’s not just [the Department of Education] putting out a press release or statement, but … something that’s soliciting feedback from everyone–teachers, students, [and] parents,” says Daren Briscoe, deputy press secretary for the Department of Education.

Adding a Twitter poll can be a quick way to gain insight into what staff or parents are thinking.

Social Media in the Classroom

“Thanks for your tweets about last night’s parent meeting!” shared Joyce with her campus principal, while holding the hand of her kindergarten aged child in the hallway. Joyce, a parent on the go who lives on her smartphone, often calls into school to check on her child’s progress, as well as tries to keep track of what’s going on. Contrast Joyce’s experience with mobile phones with the once-a-day parent, Emily, who visits her son’s classroom web page to find out what homework assignments there are and catch up on what major concepts are being covered in class. “I really appreciate how, when I visit the web page, the right-hand column has pictures of my child working on projects in class!” The updates–which can include images and audio–feature students working in groups on projects at school and are fed in by Twitter updates.

Here are a few tips for creating successful social media learning experiences.

Tip #1 – Build a safe online learning space for your school.

Social media tools abound for building an easy-to-update virtual space that can transform how parents view your school. You want parents to see beyond the brick and mortar of the school to the spirit captured in images, multimedia, and children’s voices. Think of it as allowing your school spirit to shine through in ways you hadn’t imagined before. Build an online space using a variety of tools. These sites are easy to create and allow us to blend images, video, and sounds easily in one place. To protect student names and images, always make sure to have a posted checklist in each classroom of who can be photographed or audio/video-recorded.

Tip #2 – Set up your school Twitter account.

Many of us have heard of Twitter as a way to build professional learning networks that give us access to online professional development 24/7. What many fail to realize is that each Twitter update can be embedded in a blog entry or website. You can often copy-and-paste the link to the tweet or use Twubs.com to embed the tweet.

Tip #3 – Archive All Your Tweets

Worried that you might miss all the tweets relevant to your class, campus, or district hashtag? Use a simple solution like TAGS:


Tip #4 – Hashtag your school’s Tweets

If every one in your school knew the secret keyword to search for on the Internet, wouldn’t this make it a lot easier to find information about your school? Currently, educators have conversations about various professional learning resources, such as #edchat and #cpchat and many others. These hashtags enable you and the school community to interact via Twitter. If you search on a Twitter hashtag for your campus, any 140-character tweet that includes the hashtag will be viewable.

Tip #5 – Encourage Sharing Online

It’s tempting to want to control all the tweets and online sharing that can go on by parents. Focus on creating a culture of empowered learners–adults or students–sharing what they are learning as they are learning it. With shared hashtags, you can easily pull in content and share excerpts from that content in your virtual space.


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