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Social Media in Schools: When You Know It’s Working

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My first thoughts years ago regarding social media and education was easy: No way,  doesn’t belong, or students will only get in trouble using it.  I always joke during Twitter PD’s that I have run, that I joined Twitter out of curiosity after a colleague (Drew Crawford) shared with me how easy it was and how I could get news/updates on what I wanted.  I even joined using a fake name (did not want students or colleagues knowing I was on Twitter) and I loved it but again I was only using it for personal consumption.  I finally started following some educators (Eric Sheninger in particular) and I realized that Twitter was the best PD I was receiving (what I want when I want) but my mindset on digital leadership as well as using social media in schools and education changed.  I realized the world of social media offered us a free outlet to engage all stakeholders in communication, collaboration, and engagement.  As my comfort level using social media deepened, I wanted to use it to connect my school with everyone; the large the audience the better.

In the world of instant gratification, I started our school’s Twitter page last year and was immediately ready for it to engage everyone.  Well months crept by and we only had about 50-75 followers.  I quickly realized that when using social media in schools, it is a process.  It does take time to get your message across and have stakeholders embrace it.  We can’t be discouraged if our social media efforts are not immediately rewarded.  I quickly realized this was perfectly normal. Allow for a learning curve, as well as time to build and expand your online presence.

In our second year, our Twitter Page has expanded.  I began the year by sending a letter to our stakeholders informing them the how, what, and why our school would be using Twitter as well as increasing our presence in our school.  I recently realized that my patience was paying off.  I had a wonderful teacher in our building, who is not an avid technology user, come up and thank me the other day for our school’s Twitter page.  He told me he could not make it to the game the other night but he knew he would be able to check our Twitter page and get an update.  May seem small, but I took this as a sign.  Another key moment in realizing that our social media movement was paying off has been the engagement and conversation with our students.  Students now know, they can ask questions and set up meetings with myself through Twitter.  I have had students ask questions about spirit days, schedule changes for the next day, and graduation questions.  Parents will now share event pictures with us on Twitter so that we can share with our community.  Our clubs and different departments have started Twitter pages to update our community on events and scholarship offers.  We now have teachers who take part in and have led Twitter Chats and students have created a fan page for our sports teams.  I am so proud at the growth our school has shown using social media.  I know it can and will continue to improve, but these recent reflections were worth celebrating.

I encourage and challenge you as leaders to continue to use and grow social media in your schools.  Engage with stakeholders, run PD’s for staff, and discuss/model digital citizenship with all students.  It is ok to start small.  Do not get discouraged if results are not immediate.  Be patient, work hard and over time you will see the payoff.  I cannot wait to hear the moments you knew social media was paying off in your school from my PLC.  Thank you.

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