Book Review - The School Leader's Guide to Social Media #edchat

Source: Eye on Education

Ever had the experience when you pick up a book (or read one electronically), and you just know from reading the first few paragraphs, it's going to be a GREAT book? That's how I felt while perusing Ronald Williamson's and J. Howard Johnston's book, The School Leader's Guide to Social Media.

Allow me to share some of the quotes that just make this a must-read book:
  1. "To ignore this technology is to deprive kids of the chance to see how adults use it for productive and responsible purposes. It's not going away, so if we don't do the job, it will be left to hucksters and others who see the technology as a way to exploit people rather than help them grow."
  2. "This stuff is just exploding! I know it's inevitable, and I know we can't really control it, so we need to figure out how to use it in positive ways and help our students use it responsibly for learning."
  3. Leaders must become more comfortable talking openly about their school and the complex and occasionally contentious issues they face. One principal said, "You can't hide a thing. You have to be honest about what's going on. To act otherwise is to reinforce the idea that you're less than honest. I can't afford to have that happen."
  4. "When others ask me a question I don't know, I can find the answer through my PLN...Within 10 minutes I had 10 responses." (--Dodie Ainslie)
  5. "No school rises above its leadership" 
That last one is worth saying again. "No school rises above its leadership." 

When you read quotes like those above from administrators and school leaders, you know you're reading a book that will be hard-hitting! The book cites research from Pew Internet & American Life Project (2010), such as the following about how teenagers communicate:
  • 54% send text messages daily
  • 25% access social networking sites daily
  • 24% exchange instant messages daily
  • 11% use email daily
What's astonishing is that the book also shares Pew's research that "62% of all students say they can have their phones at school, just not in class." That's pretty fun data to consider...many of our children have more access, connectivity, technology than what schools can provide, but we forbid them from using it in ANY way. This book points the way to bringing these banned technologies into the fold rather than letting kids figure it out on their own.

I recently read AK Stout's points about social media. Stout points out that "You Shouldn't Use Social Media if..." in business if your goals are to:
  • Make more sales.
  • Aren't going to listen or respond to tweets or contacts via Facebook.
Simple advice, no? In The School Leader's Guide, the authors echo this sentiment, citing Lon Safko (The Social Media Bible author) and making their own connection:
"It's a shift from pontification to two way communication and it's a shift about which we no longer control our corporate message. No longer does the consumer trust corporate messages. They don't trust and don't want to hear our commercials any longer. They want their information from people they know, have a relationship with, and share a bond with through trust. They want to be educated by, hear news from, and get their product reviews by people they know and trust. They want to share their experiences, both good and bad, with people who trust them." 
For school leaders, the task is becoming the same: Create trust with their audience--the community--by becoming a regular participant in the conversation about school improvement.
I can't argue with this point! In fact, I heartily endorse it and cite Seth Godin:
"While you’ve been hiring consultants to create a slick corporate intranet, establishing policies about who gets to post what, and creating a chain of command to ensure that only appropriate and approved materials show up on your...home page," points out Seth Godin in his book Meatball Sundae, "your engineers, scientists, researchers -- ...even the marketing folks -- have been creating little Web sites for their own use." Meatball Sundae is a book I urge every school district communications staff member to read since it gets at the heart of the problem school districts face. You can't take advantage of social media unless you re-align your core approach to storytelling and sharing ideas/information to the new tools available. (Source: Reaching for the Heart)
In The School Leader's Guide, the authors go on to explore concerns & benefits, student safety issues, including providing "legal guidance" about terms like the Tinker Test, Fraser Test, Morse Test, Hazelwood Test, discussing cyberbullying and more.  Each chapter comes with "The Bottom Line", "Think About..." questions, and "Now Do This," helping school leaders move to action.

For example, check out this "The Bottom Line:"
Social media is a part of our lives. There is no turning back. Our use of various social media tools will only increase. It is important that school leaders work with students, teachers and families to make sure that students minimize risky behaviors and learn the skills to socialize safely online.
Not bad, eh? In fact, I wholeheartedly agree and that's exactly what I expect my own children to do--learn the skills to socialize safely, appropriately online.

In the "Now Do This" section, the following advice appears, and it's well worth following:
  1. Meet with your PTO or other parent group and talk about socializing safely online. Develop a plan for how the shcool will work with families to increase awareness about online safety.
  2. Talk with key teacher leaders about an online presence and how every employee can be more attentive to what they share and how they communicate online.
  3. Contact other school leaders in your district and talk with them about how you can work together to increase online safety.
Now, it's easy to get caught up in the safety bug. The first reaction is "Stop, drop and roll," right? Stop doing social media for fear you'll be caught, Drop people who are doing inappropriate stuff, and then roll right on to something else hoping people will forget what they've said. The truth of the matter is more profound--There is NO turning back, as the authors of the book point out.

The authors go on to point out some advice (not all of it cited here) that jumps out anyone in school leadership:
  • Post information and updates quickly.
  • Identify someone comfortable with social media to manage the process.
  • Provide planned, timely and useful information. Trivial information will lead people to block your content.
  • Post regularly or you'll be forgotten and dropped from newsfeeds.
Amen. I'm sure Ms. Stout would agree with this advice, whether it be for schools or businesses. In fact, that's the kind of advice that anyone who blogs ( me) tries to follow.

The great thing is that it's so easy now to provide timely updates. The problem is, folks in schools are AFRAID to say anything because they try to control every word that gets posted. And, as the authors point out, that kind of "fake talk" isn't desirable anymore.

In fact, the authors offer excellent advice, citing Lisa Barone:
  1. Listen without reacting.
  2. Be unfailingly honest.
  3. Always remain calm.
  4. Speak like a real person.
  5. Promise to be better.

Other parts of the book also focus on tools such as wikis, Moodle, blogs, to facilitate book studies and information sharing. The authors point out the following:
A commitment to continued professional growth is a characteristic of the most effective schools. Social media provides a variety of tools (blogs, wikis, Moodle) that can be used to create professional communities and promote interaction designed to improve teaching and learning.
To be blunt, no matter what tool you are using, you should be using something to facilitate online interactions. If you're not, and you're depending solely on face to face, you and your folks are missing out on tremendous potential.

I suppose my favorite section of the book appears towards the end and is entitled, Key Leadership Strategies for Adopting Innovation in Schools:
  1. Win Early, Win Often
  2. Start Simple
  3. Watch One, Do One, Teach One
  4. Lead by learning
  5. Show up where the action is
  6. Raise the stakes
  7. Put your money where your mouth is
  8. Empower others
  9. Embrace critics; manage resistors
  10. Know when something is a personnel problem.
Great advice to follow (if you can!).

The final wisdom in the book is this:
Staying Current 2.0 is a strategy that mimics the interactivity of Web 2.0, the collective ownership of open source software, and the availability of cloud computing. It relies on students, faculty, staff, and even parents to become a community of learners that tracks technological innovations that hold promise for better teacher and learning. Operating on the belief that "none of us is as smart as all of us," this approach invites all members of the school community to contribute ideas, information, links and resources to a community forum that reports on new developments and innovations in technology, teaching and the integration of the two.

I highly recommend this book for school leaders. Maybe, we can adapt this quote from Oprah:

If you want to feel good, you have to go out and do some good. -Oprah

To something like this:
If you want to do some good, you need ot use social media to share what others are doing well!
-Miguel messing with Oprah's words


Note: You may want to read the companion post to this blog entry,

Read In the Trenches - School Leaders Speak Up

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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


Unknown said…
Thanks Miguel. After reading I forwarded to my admin...I am hoping they will buy & share.

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