Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our School Has Embraced Social Media

I will admit, reading Eric Sheninger's post, A Wake Up Call For School Leaders, caused me to write this post.  In essence, he was stating that too many educational leaders are talking a good game when it comes to technology integration into their school, however there lacks substance once you actually look at what they are doing, and this needs to change if we truly want to see improvements in education.

By no means do I feel as though Eric was calling me out, nor is this post a chance for me to prove my school is actually walking the walk.  This is about seeing it in practice.  In education, we talk about making changes in instruction, and some people get it and go, while others struggle because they need to "see" what that shift actually looks like.  I am sure the same is true with educational leaders.  

Perhaps we are doing something different at BWI that will be an eye opener.  Maybe we are not.  If nothing else, you will be able to see the things we are doing in a 5th and 6th grade building, and maybe that will be enough to give you that nudge to take the first step for your school.

We use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and a school blog to inform our families and communities about what is going on in our school.  Facebook has actually been great for two way communication.  We allow comments, which can be a scary thought.  However I would rather see those comments than have them happen behind my back.  

This is the second year we have produced a weekly video newsletter and it has been by far, the most impactful, positive thing we have done to tell our story.  Examples and links are below.

School Facebook
Big Walnut Intermediate Facebook Page

School Twitter
Big Walnut Intermediate Twitter Page

Video Newsletter
BWI Video Newsletter

School Blog
BWI 180 Days Of Awesome

We allow our 5th and 6th graders to bring their own devices, use our WiFi, and many of them even use my office in times of an emergency need to recharge.  Do the kids make mistakes and misuse the devices?  Occasionally.  We use those opportunities as learning experiences.

I used to be the principal that locked everything down.  I did not want to see the devices in our building, Social Media was taboo in schools, and I was on patrol.  Then the lightbulb clicked for me, and honestly, Eric Sheninger had a big influence on that.  Am I where I need to be as an educational leader in terms of technology?  Who knows.  What I do know is, we are telling our story, we are using multiple pathways to tell that story, and our school is better off for it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Connected Educator Month Is Over...Now What?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present at our district's professional development day.  It was set up sort of like a trade show at a conference.  Teachers could stop by any "booth" and stay for as little or as long as they liked.  My booth was "Twitter, It's Not Just For Justin Bieber Anymore."  Those who know me know I am a huge proponent of using Twitter for educational purposes.  I originally thought Twitter was stupid because I did not understand it.  Many teachers feel this way.  My goal on this day was to convert a few of them by explaining the benefits.

One teacher stopped by my booth and said "I have a Twitter account, I tried to use it with my class, it was hugely unsuccessful.  Twitter is dumb, and nothing you are going to say to me will change my mind."  Game on.

I asked her how she was using Twitter and she explained that she was tweeting questions hoping her students would respond and they were not responding.  I told her I thought that was a pretty creative idea, but asked her if she ever thought about using Twitter as a research tool.  She had not.  I began showing her how she could connect with other educators in her content area and how she could learn lesson ideas they were sharing on Twitter.  I showed her that Twitter could be a tool for research and connecting.  

Four minutes had elapsed since she made her initial statement to me.  She was now hooked.

I used to be the anti-technology anti-social media principal.  The main reason was, I just did not understand it.  Once I did, it was like a new world had been opened to me.  I will never go back.  Our school has benefitted greatly from the connections my staff and I have made.  It was certainly a group effort.  Some examples are:

  • School Twitter account
  • School Instagram account
  • School Facebook Page
  • Teach Like A PIRATE Day
  • Mystery Skype
  • The Video Newsletter
  • Genius Hour Club
  • School blog
We learned about many of these from other educators and tweaked them to make them our own.  There is no sense in reinventing the wheel if someone already has and they are willing to share.  We simply modify it to make it the best wheel for our kids.  Our communication with families has never been better and I believe our kids have never loved coming to school more than they do now.

So to all of the new educators who joined Twitter in October, keep connecting, keep reaching out, and keep bringing great ideas to your school.  Your kids will be glad you did.