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Using Social Media: Tips for School Leaders

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Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present these administrator tips related to The School Leader's Guide to Social Media, by Ronald Williamson and J. Howard Johnston.

The authors discuss how social media can be used to increase productivity, aid professional development, and improve communication with students, families, and the greater community. For example, some schools use Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about school news and upcoming events. Others host blogs or wikis to share information about particular classes or school projects. The authors do, however, stress the importance of planning ahead before embracing any form of social media.

To get school leaders' take on the issue, Eye on Education asked a panel of administrators to respond to the following questions:

How do you currently use social media in your school? What tips would you give to other school leaders looking to apply social media tools to their school communities?

Eric Sheninger
Principal, New Milford High School, New Milford, NJ    

As a high school principal, one of the greatest benefits of using social media has been connecting with stakeholders by delivering real-time information on student achievements, staff innovations, athletic scores, meetings and important updates to our school Web site. Additionally, the school has benefited from an impactful public relations platform by delivering news and content through tools that our students, parents, and community members use on a routine basis at home. This powerful combination has led to the establishment of a positive brand presence.

Social media is also quickly evolving into the “go to” source for professional development. School leaders can now easily establish their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) based on their specific interests and needs. PLNs are free and available 24/7 from anywhere that has an Internet connection. My PLN incorporates Twitter, Google+, Digital Discussion Forums (Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0, ASCD Edge, edWeb.net), social bookmarking services (Delicious and Diigo) and Pinterest.

The first step to using social media effectively is to determine your goals, set aside some time to learn, observe how other tech-savvy school leaders are using social media, and inform your community as to how these tools will be used.


James Davis
Principal, Knox Middle School, Salisbury, NC   

We use a texting feature that allows parents and other school stakeholders to sign up for text messages from the school. Once they are signed up, they receive text messages via their phone about school events, deadlines, field trips and other pertinent information. In addition, we are able to spotlight special students, teachers and others who deserve recognition.

I would suggest that any school using social media tools be very cautious about what they share and/or post. Furthermore, I would recommend that a school only allow one person, preferably the principal, to be in charge of the distribution of information.


Teresa Tulipana
Principal, Renner Elementary School, Kansas City, MO   

At Renner Elementary we embrace social media as a communication tool. Facebook and Twitter accounts keep families abreast of school events and happenings. Though at first we envisioned them as systems to provide calendar reminders, we found that Facebook is also a great tool for sharing our school’s academic and behavioral focus areas in an efficient, fun and engaging manner. Recently a kindergarten teacher posted an Animoto highlighting pictures from Writer’s Workshop, which communicated the importance of writing at our school. When the fourth grade completed Famous Missourian research projects, these were posted so parents were able to understand the value and importance of their research.

Social media has also allowed us to deploy important professional development content. Recently we used Blackboard, an educational social media tool, to host a virtual faculty meeting. Through Blackboard, staff watched a short Rick Wormeli video on defining mastery, and then responded to reflection questions on a discussion board. This flexible format allowed staff members to learn at a time that was convenient to their own personal calendars and increased engagement by assuring that every voice was heard.


David Elena
Principal, Tomahawk Creek Middle School, Midlothian, VA   

Here at TCMS we encourage our teachers to utilize social media whenever they can. We currently have a Facebook page for our school and our PTA. We have found that this was a great way to get messages out to parents and students. We have several teachers who use Edmodo to post discussions and assignments for their students, and they have reported remarkable success using this tool. One teacher told me she had 25 kids on Edmodo the day she started using it. We are looking at implementing a Twitter account next year to help get information out to the community. Although this is not a replacement for standard means of communication (Web sites, letters home, etc.), it is a great additional way to share information with our community.

As far as discipline issues go, we attempt to address those who cause the issues. The technology is here to stay, so we try to implement it where we can and deal with the trouble issues when they arise. Thus far, we have had no problems using these means of communication.


Miguel Guhlin

Director, Instructional Technology & Learning Services, San Antonio, TX   

There’s a school in my district with a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter to inform parents and other school stakeholders about school announcements. We were feeling somewhat burdened by the time pressure to keep both of these social networks up to date. Now, we use a no-cost service known as Ping.fm to simultaneously update our campus Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Here’s how it worked:

  • We set up our Twitter and Facebook accounts first.
  • We set up our Ping.fm account and installed the app on our smart phones.
  • We connected our Twitter and Facebook accounts to Ping.fm.
  • We posted photo and text updates to Ping.fm.

Now the principal, other campus administrators, and I are easily able to post pictures and text updates via Twitter and Facebook.

 

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