Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Wake Up Call For School Leaders

So the other day I tweeted out this comment, “I am amazed each day to see so much educational progress in my Twitter feed. This should be the norm, not the exception.” Many people in education talk a great game when it comes to the effective use of technology, but the results (lack there of) speak for themselves. I constantly see and hear about leaders who tout themselves in a way that makes others develop a perception that they actually know something about the effective integration of a variety of technology tools to improve professional practice. However, once you get past the rhetoric you quickly realize that it is just talk with a clear lack of substance.  This is not to say that they are unwilling to learn or embrace significant change in this area.  It just hasn’t happened yet, at least from my view.  Thus, the use of social media in schools by educators continues to be an uphill battle.  

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For those educators and schools that are either resistant to or unsure about using social media, I challenge you to move from a fixed to a growth mindset to create schools that work better for kids and establish relevance as a leader in your district, school, or classroom.

  • Begin to strategically utilize an array of 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. Consistency aligned with intent is key.  
  • Take control of you public relations by becoming the storyteller-in-chief to produce a constant stream of positive news.  If you don't share your story someone else will and you then run the chance that it will not be positive. Stop reacting to public relations situations you have limited control of and begin to be more proactive. When supplying a constant stream of positive news you will help to mitigate any negative stories that might arise.  
  • Establishing a brand presence should no longer 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. Simply communicating and telling your story with social media tools can accomplish this. When you do, the brand presence develops solely based on the admirable work that is taking place in your district, school, or classroom.
  • Connect with experts, peers, and practitioners across the globe to grow professionally through knowledge acquisition, resource sharing, engaged discussion, and to receive feedback. This will not only save you time and money, but will open up your eyes to infinite possibilities to truly become a digital leader. Who would not want to tap into countless opportunities that arise through conversations and transparency in online spaces? Don't wait another second to start building a Personal Learning Network (PLN).
  • If you are an administrator, stop supporting or enforcing a gatekeeper approach and allow educators to use free social media tools to engage learners, unleash their creativity, and enhance learning. Hiding behind CIPA is just an excuse for not wanting to give up control.  If you want students that are real world or future ready, they must be allowed to use the tools that are prevalent now in this world.
  • Schools are missing a golden opportunity and failing students by not teaching digital responsibility/citizenship through the effective use of social media. We need to begin to empower students to take more ownership of their learning by promoting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the use of mobile learning devices if schools do not have the means to go 1:1. By BYOD I don’t mean just allowing kids to bring in and use their own devices in the hallways and during lunch. That is not BYOD. Real BYOD initiatives allow students to enhance/support their learning experience, increase productivity, conduct better research, and become more digitally literate. 

It is time for the profession of education to catch up to society. In order to start moving schools in a better direction we must help leaders experience the true value of technology.  Once this happens they can begin to better model expectations for others, which will result in sustainable changes leading to transformation. Our students deserve and demand better.  Together we can continue to be the change that we want to see in education.


  1. Wonderful, have you read George Siemens work on connectivism? It fits nicely with your work and includes research-based frameworks for how learning changes with a connected PLN. Here are the references:

    Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from

    Siemens, G. (2008). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. Retrieved from

    Siemens, G., & Conole, G. (2011). Special Issue - Connectivism: Design and Delivery of Social Networked Learning. International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning, 12(3), 1.

    Siemens, G., & Matheos, K. (2010). Systemic changes in higher education. Technology & Social Media, 16(1). Retrieved from

    1. Thanks for reading Kristi and sharing these resources from G. Siemens. I will surely check them out.

  2. I agree with what you've said 100%! In addition I'd like to add that sometimes it is not the principal or direct administrator who is reluctant to open up social media to staff and students. Often the "gatekeeper" mind set comes from higher up in the administrative hierarchy. Unless we are able to change this mindset our students will continue to lose out on valuable, real life learning experiences. The time is now for teachers to advocate for themselves and their students. If we continue to sit around idly and do nothing then we become part of the problem. I challenge all teachers to begin the social media conversation with their district administrators and/or gatekeepers. It won't get better unless we take action. I'm willing to take the first step, are you?

  3. You are so correct Connie. The levels of administrative bureaucracy (classroom, building, district) definitely has a negative impact on our kids. More often than not Central Office dictates marching orders to IT when comes to blocking social media in schools and banning student owned devices. In other cases IT convinces Central Office that these sites have to be blocked for reasons that have been debunked. When someone doesn't know or understand something fear usually develops. The easiest way to counteract their fear to to assume ultimate control of the situation and just block and ban everything. As you state we need to take action. Fortunately there are many magnificent leaders (students, teachers, building level, superintendents, IT) fighting the good fight and leading by example in this area.

  4. I am constantly learning and improving myself as a digital leader, and hope that others on my administrative team will do the same if I lead by example. I have often found that once one person sees you using a new tool or approach successfully, they will often follow suit.

    1. is all about modeling the expectations you have of others. When success follows, so does everyone else.

  5. As a principal, I find your imperative to become the "Storyteller in Chief" motivational. Today's students not only own devices, but they know how to use them to learn, to communicate, and to create social networks. I recently read a wonderful commentary on the Hechinger Report ( that framed the digital divide in terms of social and emotional skills in addition to just technology savvy. In this post, Shapiro states that "digital tools are not only changing the way we learn, they are also changing the way we behave. Students who learn devices will internalize particular social and emotional skills, specific thought patterns and ways of interacting with the world that will eventually become the new 'ordinary.' Students who do not have access to these technologies, or who receive exposure only in a minimally integrated way, will find themselves disadvantaged."
    This supports your argument that school leaders must STOP being gatekeepers and start leading the charge to fully integrate social media into our schools while teaching responsible digital citizenship.

  6. Thanks again for pushing forward thinking and offering inspiration as well as strategy. I love the comments and suggestions.

  7. Intermittently, my "gate keeper" mindset will come to the fore in my need to control the learning context that I have arrived at. Daily exercise is required to strengthen my growth mindset, by way of consciously deciding to be the learner and the teacher. This is called AKO in my culture (Maori from New Zealand). As a verb this term defines the reciprocal relationship between learning and teaching. Schools that want to work better for kids need to embrace and spread AKO amongst their staff and student body. By doing so learning becomes a relationship where power is shared, dynamic and evolving. Who knew that technology would break down the "gates and barriers" to provide a vehicle for such a phenomena to occur in a widespread manner.

  8. Great post. I love the second bullet where you state that if we don't tell our story, then someone else is going to, with their own spin on it. I have taken that to heart and vowed (again) to make sure our Social Media feed is a daily stream of all the good happening at our school. It is positive, but I sometimes get so busy, I forget the daily news. I appreciate the reminder!
    Our school went 1:1 last spring and it's been an incredible journey. We're taking baby steps and really clamped down on things in the beginning, but we're loosening the grip a little this fall and so far, so good! There will always be issues, but that's normal. When I get a little disappointed in things, I remind myself to stop and look at the big picture.....and I get renewed all over again! What an exciting time in our middle school! Thanks for a great post. I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot!

  9. Great post Eric. We ask ourselves "Are we doing this because it's good for kids or are we doing it because it's good for us?" when we come across a restrictive policy or practice. When it comes to blocking social media and other communication ports, I find the gatekeeper mentality comes out because it's so much easier then meaningful discourse around teaching kids digital responsibility.
    Also, after reading this post, I realized that I unknowingly quoted you "if you don't tell your story someone else will." in a blog post last month on community communications.

    I'll update it now.


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  11. I agree completely that we need to open the gates with regard to online tools. Eric, can you say more about stepping out from behind the red tape of CIPA (2000)? Is it just a matter of writing policy and training programs in a way that addresses both the language of CIPA and allows for the use of the platforms you’re suggesting? The broad banner of “obscene” and “harmful to minors” is difficult when the popular platforms to which you refer usually have iffy content that’s just a click away. Also, I’m specifically thinking about policies that the companies have written (for example, YouTube has a 13 and over policy) and how to negotiate these policies when writing our own and when programming courses and schedules. Thanks for your insight.