Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Social Media is Not Just For Students

Cross-posted at the NJ Principals and Supervisors Association.
When principals hear the words Twitter and Facebook they cringe. Immediately, visions of excessive socialization, time wasted, and meaningless conversations in the form of updates come to mind. This is true, in many cases, when these tools are used for personal use. I am here to share ways in which principals can harness the power of these free resources to improve communications, public relations, professional growth, instruction, and create a brand presence for your school. Quite simply, social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook have improved my effectiveness and efficiency as an educational leader.

Image credit:
Twitter is a microblogging platform that allows users to send free messages called "tweets" in 140 characters or less. Character limits and the ability for people to receive tweets as SMS text messages make this a powerful communications tool. Why spend money on expensive information delivery systems when you can use Twitter for free? One of the benefits of using Twitter is that you can communicate information whenever and wherever you want, making it extremely convenient. Principals can use Twitter to easily and quickly communicate the following information:
  • School events (concerts, art shows, Back to School Night)
  • Meetings (PTO, PTA, Athletic Boosters)
  • School closings
  • Live athletic scores, updates, and final results
  • Student honors
  • Teacher innovations
  • Emergency information
  • News
At New Milford High School I have created an official Twitter account to send out the above information. I developed a simple instruction sheet and disseminated it to all of my parents because many people still don’t really know what Twitter is or how it can be used for professional communications. This sheet explains how to sign up, activate updates on their cell phones, and the types of information that will be sent out.
As I learned from my students, many more people use the social media tool, Facebook, than use Twitter. As a result of their advice, I created a NMHS Facebook page. The same information sent out using Twitter is also placed on our NMHS Facebook Page. Using these two resources together can allow principals to take control of their public relations and deliver positive information into the hands of stakeholders. Where principals once relied on the media, press releases, and websites, we now have the ability to get out links to media articles and website updates as well as pictures and video that highlight school programs. By doing so you ultimately create a brand presence for your building, one that conveys a message of success, organization, innovation, and achievement.
Principals can also use social networking tools for professional growth and development. My journey started in March 2009 when I took a chance and began to utilize Twitter as acommunications tool. After lurking and learning for a little while, I quickly discovered this vibrant community of passionate educators actively collaborating to improve educational practices. With this new knowledge in hand I began to formulate my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) that is based on global collaboration, active discussion, acquiring and sharing of resources, consistent feedback, proven strategies, and reflection.
As my network has grown, so has my growth as an educational leader. With new ideas and strategies in hand, I am now working collaboratively with my staff to transform the teaching and learning culture of my school. Through a combination of sound pedagogy and effective technology integration, student engagement is on this rise. We are making learning relevant, meaningful, and creative!
Twitter opened my eyes to a variety of Web 2.0 tools that could be used to improve my knowledge of educational leadership, effective instructional practices, and technology integration. Principals and schools should embrace Twitter, and social media in general. As leaders, it is our job to communicate effectively, promote all programs (academic, athletic, extracurricular), cultivate innovative teaching practices, and model life-long learning while growing professionally. Using social media to accomplish these goals in the 21st Century not only makes sense, but also is time well spent.


  1. I'm the PTA media chair for our elementary school. Our principal has allowed and encouraged us to utilize social media to reach our school families. I use Facebook, Twitter, and new this year I designed a PTA website with Google Sites. These are all great and effective communication tools.

  2. I especially like the last paragraph and I would add emphasis to the idea of modeling the use of social media for all the uses you point out. Superintendents and principals can't simply be cheerleaders, they must lead from the front, just as you are doing at NMHS, Eric! Good post!

  3. It's easy to overlook the importance of LinkedIn as a professional social networking tool. The social media platform has allowed me to make connections, learn, get information and identify emerging practices and exchange views with peers from around the world. In a nutshell, it's like going to a conference every time you sit at your desk and log on. That's why LinkedIn sits at number five on my top 25 smem destinations.Social Network Analysis

  4. Well said. We are working as a division on developing our Digital Citizenship model. I think an important piece of this is understanding and use of the social media ourselves. Our school is one of few to have a FaceBook page and have had nothing but success with it as a tool to communicate with parents.

  5. Excellent post Eric. I passed this on to my admins. I would love to see them embrace SM in my district.

  6. Nick,

    If you ever need me to talk to your admin just let me know :)

  7. Eric, I am one of those administrators to whom Nick passed along your post. He and I had discussions about using social media for my school. I would love to see what you sent to your parents about the school's adopting the us of Twitter, Facebook , etc.

    Walter Fitzpatrick

  8. Walter,

    I just need your email address and then I will send it to you.

  9. Eric - Great post! I just opened a brand new school where we are "innovating to educate". The PTA & I use Facebook, but not Twitter. Can you please e-mail what you sent out to parents?
    Thanks for sharing!
    Very interested,

  10. Eric -
    I appreciate your willingness to share. My email adrdress is


    BTW - I just came back from Jersey after visiting my family. I am originally from Jersey City.

  11. Hi,

    Your Site is excellent stuff with wonderful information! I'm new here and loving the post! Thanks for sharing this great info!