As I write this article, education is making a shift towards increased rigor and accountability for teachers, students, and administrators. With the new Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced assessments out and about, students and teachers are being pushed to new levels. Education is no longer defined in terms of what a teacher will teach, but rather in terms of what a student will be able to demonstrate.
But that’s not the only big shift. What is also changing is the way we communicate with our stakeholders. With the increased demand for immediate information, social media has become an extremely useful tool for tearing down the school walls and providing real-time information to parents, students, and community members.
Twitter is a free social media tool that affords our high school, Madison High School in Madison, South Dakota (home of the Bulldogs), the opportunity to push positive information about student achievements, athletic scores, important updates for parents and students, and character-building concepts. Twitter also allows our parents to capture and save those fun and crazy times our students have on a daily basis.
I firmly believe that Twitter is a great way to build positive relationships with people and also promote the wonderful things we do in public education. The use of Twitter allows our high school to share all the positive things we do on a daily basis, with the world, through the eyes of a student. Additionally, Twitter promotes buy-in from our student body. For example, the students at the high school were allowed to pick our hashtag that I use. As a result, they (and we as a faculty) take great pride in being a #BulldogNation!
But building those relationships through Twitter doesn’t stop once I close my computer. One of the biggest changes I made as a leader came in September 2013 when I began to follow the #NoOfficeDay routine a couple of times during the year. This provided me the opportunity to get into classrooms with the students and share all the powerful things going on, not only with our students, but also their parents. The students truly enjoy seeing what each other is learning during the school day--something that Twitter inspired.
Twitter is not only a tool to provide communication for a school district, it is also one of the most powerful tools for personal professional development. Twitter allows me the opportunity to focus my Personal Learning Network (PLN) around my individual needs of our school system. The best part of my PLN is the availability of information 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. It allows me to connect with other administrators and teachers all around the world and share ideas for others to implement.
Positive benefits aside, you may be be wondering how exactly Madison got Twitter to become such an asset with our stakeholders. To be honest, rolling out a ubiquitous tool like Twitter in my school was a challenge. First, the way that I began this communication piece was through the students--specifically, finding those students who use Twitter on a daily basis and encouraging them to spread the word to others.
Next, parents. I had the technology department place a Twitter widget on the high school website which allows students and parents to connect with faculty and receive real-time communication on a daily basis.
And what about faculty? The Madison High School faculty is jumping on board with the Twitter environment, as well. Staff have begun to understand the importance of social media and how it allows them to connect with students on a different level.
Each school should look for ways to embrace the social media in their school environment. After listening to the following Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, take the time to reflect and figure out “why” social media can be such an important tool for your school system. Once you figure out the “why”, the “what” and “how” become very easy during the implementation process.
This is a very exciting time in education as we look forward. There will be many challenges as we look forward over the next few years as we make a paradigm change in education. But Madison High School looks to embrace the web 2.0 opportunity to further enhance the education of our students on a daily basis--and encourages you to, as well.