Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Questions I Ask

I have been fortunate over the past few days to have attended the Authorspeak Conference.  This experience has allowed me to listen to and connect with some of the best minds in education (i.e. Robert Marzano, Rick DuFour, Carol Tomlinson, Doug Reeves, Will Richardson).  Additionally,  I have been able to network with other amazing educators from all over the world and actively share how we are transforming the culture at New Milford High School.

During the second day of the conference I presented on Communicating and Connecting With Social Media with my co-authors Bill Ferriter and Jason Ramsden.  Throughout the 45 minute presentation we shared proven strategies to harness the power inherent within social media tools to enhance communications, establish the foundation for a positive public relations platform, connect with other educators to learn, and create policies to ensure effective use.  I believe our session went very well and attendees left with a vision and strategies to begin integrating social media tools into their professional practice.  For a brief summary check out the synopsis by Nick Provezano at The Nerdy Teacher blog.

However, after reflecting on the session and speaking with some of the attendees, it is apparent that the embracement of social media in schools and by educators will continue to be an uphill battle.  For those educators and schools that are either resistant to or unsure about using social media I pose these questions to you:
  • Why would educators and schools not want to use free social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate important information (student honors, staff accomplishments, meetings, emergency information) to stakeholders in real-time? 
  • Who would not want to take control of their public relations and produce a constant stream of positive news?  If we don't share our story someone else will and we then run the chance that it will not be positive.
  • Why should establishing a brand presence be restricted to the business world when schools and districts now have the tools at their fingertips to do this in a cost-effective manner?
  • What educator would not want to connect with experts and peers across the globe to grow professionally through knowledge acquisition, resource sharing, engaged discussion, and to receive feedback?
  • Why do many schools refuse to allow educators to use free social media tools to engage learners, unleash their creativity, and enhance learning?
  • Why are schools missing the opportunity and failing students by not teaching digital responsibility/citizenship through the effective use of social media?
  • Who would not want to tap into countless opportunities that arise through conversations and transparency in online spaces?
  • When will the profession of education catch up to society?
These are the questions that I believe many of us who are engaged in social media ask.  I encourage you to share these with other schools, administrators, teachers, and board of education members who still question the value of social media in education.  Together we can continue to be the change that we want to see in education.


  1. What an excellent list of questions! I was in a Barnes & Noble store this morning checking out the available books on social media, and I was disappointed to find them only in the business sales and marketing section. While some of your questions address what would probably be termed "marketing" for schools, the majority have more to do with communication, professional development, creativity, and transparent conversation with our communities. I wonder if that disconnect helps explain the lack of enthusiasm for social media that I sense from many educators. Ours is essentially a human relations business, not a sales business, and many of us find the whole idea of selling rather distasteful. You have gone far beyond marketing and ably identified a number of additional and equally valid reasons for embracing social media in our schools.

  2. As a technology provider to the education market, the answer, although frustrating, is that regardless of the advantages, people do not embrace change. The development of an adaptation plan or phased-in technology model will help.

  3. I work in a large urban district and the barriers and blockades are high and laced with barbed wire. I am looking at this through the classroom lens and what web 2.0, new literacies and the concept of multimodality can offer student's learning experiences.

    I feel when I am doing a green screen dv project for my constitutional inquiry that I am somehow breaking the law. I dream of ipads, twitter and a giant founding father throwdown on fb.

  4. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act ("COPPA") requires that companies, corporations, and non profit entities inform parents and legal guardians about how they collect, use, and disclose personal information from children less than 13 years of age.Because of this, many websites prohibit people under the age of 13 from using their services. This is perhaps one reason why schools are reluctant to embrace social media. There are also plenty of other legal issues which I am sure deter districts form embracing it. Consider, for example the student whose parent is hiding their child from an abusive relative, if the school is blogging about that student, he or she is automatically vulnerable and susceptible to being found. Something else to consider is the fact that the school should be a place where students are free to convey their thoughts in a non threatening environment, if the student expresses unpopular opinions (Racist, homophobic,chauvinistic) over the internet,the school would have few resources to ensure the safety of that individual.Unfortunately, if something like that were to happen the school would likely be legally liable since it would be the encouraging entity.

    In addition to the legal issues which schools face there is also the problem of the digital divide. Some students and schools possess a wide variety of technological tools while others do not. It is pretty difficult for a teacher to proffer homework assignments which require the internet when some of the students have only limited access to it.

    1. School nor any social media is not the place for any student to convey their beliefs about racism, homophobia, chauvinism, or any other type of belief that may make their school mates feel bullied. A child's negative belief of racism is nothing other than the belief of their parents. So really what could they possibly have to say of any intelligence? They are ignorant.

  5. That's a great list of questions. I fear that many of those to whom you would be asking them would be too uninformed to give answers to them. As an educational community, we've been so blinded by serving the master of standardized testing that we have been unable to keep up as the world has changed. It's time that we shift our focus and embrace the realities of the 21st Century. Nice post.

  6. Also, I love the reference to Gandhi at the end - That's my favorite Gandhi quote!

  7. Eric,

    I really appreciate the questions and I will certainly be using these as a jump-off point for some upcoming discussions with our staff...Your insight is always appreciated. It was great to follow #authorspeak even from a distance.

    Mick Panko

  8. Hey Pal,

    First, great list of questions.

    Second, I agree with your assertion that social media use in schools will be an uphill battle.

    After our session, I was approached by a teacher who told me she thought Twitter was a frivolous waste of time.

    As a guy who uses Twitter specifically to SAVE time, I wasn't sure how to reply!

    I guess that's why I'm thankful that there are so many principals who are working to make social media work in their schools. Hopefully over time, the positive examples that you create of successful implementation will change more minds.

    Rock on,

  9. Hey Eric...just a quick thought.

    Some valid questions that you have, but the first one that should always be asked and answered is "how does this improve learning?". Another question could be, "how does this help build strong relationships with our students and stakeholders?".

    I think that as educators, if we can answer that, the buy in will be there for most. Most do not care about "branding" as much, because they may feel they have found an effective way to communicate with parents already. If we continue to focus on learning and show that aspect, I think things will move ahead at a faster pace.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post! I know that i need to continue to show how this approach to education is improving the way we learn in schools.

  10. Thanks for all the great comments!

    Cynical Citizen: There will always be discipline issues in schools. When it comes to the misuse of social media it is the responsibility of schools to have specific policies in place and discipline students accordingly if they are violated. We have a media waiver in place. If a parent does not want their child using or portrayed in social media communications they don't sign off on the form. This allows us to avoid the situation you described.

    George: I agree that learning is important and made the question related to student engagement more clear. However, don't underestimate the power and value of using social media to promote what a school and/or educators are doing to improve learning on a more holistic leve (i.e. without SM). This, along with other factors, helps to create a brand presence that goes well beyond just communication.