Friday, July 11, 2014

10 Reasons Schools Should Use Social Media

School leaders have confronted many issues including effectively engaging their community, working within limited resources, and staying current in a fast-changing world.  School and district social media accounts can provide the leverage for principals and superintendents that will bring schools to a heightened level.

#1: Social media facilitates a vision of learning
The vision and mission of a school is effectively communicated through stories, photos, and videos. Vision and mission statements of past years understandably sat on the shelf. We have an opportunity through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and more to tell our story. Showing what’s going on in classrooms; who’s visiting the school; what’s happening at evening events and sporting events communicates the values, beliefs, and actions of the school. Your story may also serve to inspire others.

#2: Allows for meaningful community involvement
Information that the community receives regarding the activities, efforts, and achievement allow for 24/7 visibility.  Involvement with the greater community allows the school and community to serve one another and strengthen school programs while supporting goals. We hosted an evening with a non-profit group that had been working with our students to develop meaningful civics-minded projects. During the course of the evening, I sent out tweets showing photos of parents and students identifying problems and possible solutions within the city. The following day, the business community reached out to us to see how they could partner in this effort. So often businesses want to help the schools but they don’t know where to jump in.

#3: Establishing your brand
The school has the opportunity in its communications to establish their “brand.” This is your chance to develop public perception about what your school is and stands for. We promote our school as one with hard-working students. I check data every Sunday on the work that our students have done the prior week on the licenses we subscribe to. Then I tweet out the good news, post on Facebook, and host a recognition Google hangout with the top performers on Monday. What’s our school’s brand? #hardworkpaysoff

#4: Promoting the success of students and staff
The effort and contributions of students and staff members can be acknowledged publicly. When students’ hard work is recognized, that’s an automatic pat on the back for their teacher and parents. Feedback along with data provides impetus for learning. Many of our students have encouraged their parents to establish Twitter accounts and brag about the tweets that have been sent with data regarding their effort. We used to rely on a local newspaper to publish something meaningful about us once a year or so. Our stakeholders value the barrage of positive messages about our school.

#5: Making meaningful connections
Through our Twitter feeds, our students have become connected across the globe with organizations that have brought them resources, contributed to their learning, and promoted our goal of engaging in 21st century learning. One of our classrooms connected with a classroom in Australia, teaching and learning about each other’s cultures. Authors routinely visit our classrooms via Skype after connecting on social media.

#6: Connecting with vendors
It is the responsibility of the school leaders to seek and obtain resources that can provide gains in student achievement.  Another principal in my district and I have made connections through Twitter with vendors that have seen the value in partnering with us in marketing. As a result, they have used our feedback to improve their product. Both vendors have reduced our costs tremendously as we serve to promote their products on social media.

#7: Sharing with others
Emerging issues and trends in the world that may affect your school community are learned via social media.  School blogs and articles tweeted by other school leaders serve as the ultimate professional development tool. Learning from the successes and failures of others shortcuts ours. Principals and superintendents serve as leaders for teachers. Blogging and participating in shared learning through social media is infectious. We have built an authentic community of learners that is not confined to four walls.

#8: Disseminate information quickly
Phone lines easily jam up during a crisis. Web based programs such as Twitter are easily accessed on smartphones. Meeting notices, cancellations, and reminders can effortlessly be communicated.

#9: Sharing of data, images, and media
Evidence of student work and growth communicated through social media will serve to strengthen the school’s brand. Positive statistics and stories told with images build confidence in the school. New families will be attracted by the message conveyed. Social media platforms provide opportunities for on-going dialog, bringing in potentially diverse viewpoints and perspectives. There is opportunity on social media to bring the community together around a cause (i.e.referendum). Data, images, and videos can support a powerful message.

#10: Mobility and accessibility features allow for connectedness
Our school is within a community of diverse incomes and cultures. About half of our students come from Spanish speaking homes and 80% qualify for free or reduced meals. Despite these challenges, all of our parents have smart phones. Language features allow us to easily translate and communicate through social media. Our families value the story that we share through images and videos.

Take this challenge: Start with Twitter. Post one positive story a day about your school along with an image. Your affirming focus will help to build followers who will encourage your success.