Moment by Moment - Social Media for School Leaders

Source: Image as shared by @BYOTNetwork


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 web sites, you and your teachers can easily share powerful stories featuring your school’s children with the world. This article provides 5 simple tips you can put into place to provide just in time updates, whether you are a classroom teacher or a campus administrator.
"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. (Read Source)
Thinking social media may be more trouble than it's worth? Every educational idea probably faced some opposition!
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Consider this:
“Thanks for your tweets about last night’s parent meeting!” shared Joyce, holding the left hand of her kinder child in the hallway, with her campus principal. Joyce, a parent on the go who lives on her smart phone, often calls into school to check on her child’s progress, as well as trys 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’s 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 are fed in by Twitter updates routed through Evernote, a digital note-taking tool.

As a parent of two school-age children, what I desire the most is to know my children are safe, actively participating in engaged learning opportunities, as well as making progress on skills and strategies that will fundamentally change their lives for the better. The 5 tips in this article will help you, as a school leader, reassure parents in your community that these 3 goals are being met. How can you get it done? Strategic blending of social media with face to face meetings you have every day.

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-n-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. 


You can accomplish this by building an online space using a variety of tools such as Moodle, a Wikispaces.com wiki, or a web log (a.k.a. blog). These sites are easy to create an allow us to blend images, video, and sound 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. Setting up a virtual space can be done in a variety of ways, but you can start at web addresses like the following:

  1. Wikispaces.com for K-12 Education - This quick and easy to edit web page--a wiki--enables you and your teachers to build a virtual space all of you can monitor and contribute to. These sites are no-cost for educators and advertisement free. You can be up and going in less than a day.
  2. Blogger.com - You can take advantage of various blogging providers

Tip #2 - Set up Your School Twitter Account
Many of us have heard of Twitter as a way to build professional learning networks that gives us access to online professional development 24/7. What many school leaders don’t realize is that each Twitter update that is sent comes with what is known as an RSS feed. This feed can be blended into existing web sites, such as the wiki you created in Tip #1. 

This means that all your Twitter updates can appear on your wiki or blog page as they happen, facilitating a steady stream of information sharing for staff, students, and, most importantly, the community! You can set up your Twitter account for your school by going to http://www.twitter.com

For example, a tweet like this one from Tim Clark (@byotnetwork) can result in sharing like this:

Tip #3 - Set up an Evernote.com Account (no cost)
Imagine an easy to organize virtual notebook where you could store images, pictures, and text about the people you see as you walk through your school’s hallways and classrooms. Not only that, but you are able to automatically share those annotated observations online in an instant to your safe online space (e.g. wiki mentioned in Tip #1). 

This is a snapshot of my Evernote Notebooks, all of which are shared. Imagine your
classroom teachers' names or room numbers running down the left-hand side, content
you've shared--pictures, text, audio--in the middle column, and the details on the far
right column.


Following this online tutorial (http://goo.gl/NDZpN ), you can post your text observations illustrated with photographs you take with your Android, iPodTouch or iPad mobile device or smartphone to an Evernote Notebook. You can assign each teacher a notebook and update that notebook. Every update you make to the Evernote Notebook is fed to Twitter, appearing in your RSS feed and on your school’s wiki or blog page.

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 not so secret keywords are called hashtags and enable you and school community to share information specifically via Twitter. If you search on a Twitter hashtag for your campus, any 140 character tweet that includes the hashtag will be discoverable.

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 in your virtual space.


Note: This is the long-winded version of a lighter, better written 200 word version submitted for publication (rejected...sigh).



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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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