Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hey Forbes Magazine! What About The Students?!

Originally posted on the Connected Principals Blog

We won’t go wrong if we keep students the focus of our plans.

I was excited to see the headline on a Forbes magazine piece in August titled – Why Public School Leaders Must Embrace Social Media Now  As I read the article, I was in complete agreement with the points that were being made by the author, Joel Gagne, a consultant who works with schools on communicating more effectively with stakeholders.

Gagne pointed to the following as reasons for schools to start using social media:
“Communications: Often, schools communicate with stakeholders via either regular postal mail or the school website. When a school district decides to utilize social media, their stakeholders can receive information like the “Principal’s Report,” event information, schedule changes, and more in real time.  They can also use social media to listen to what many in their community are thinking about their local public schools.
Public Relations: Given so much negative media about public education, schools can no longer leave public relations to chance. Social media allows schools to direct their followers to newspapers and TV segments featuring positive information. School districts can also use social media to highlight the hard work of their students and staff, and their school district’s accomplishments.
 Branding: Whenever someone sees the Golden Arches, they know they’ve found McDonald’s. This should be a school district’s goal through social media – that whenever someone sees their school district’s logo, they should think “innovation” (or whatever the desired brand may be).
The above are a great starting point in regards to why schools should be utilizing social media resources.  But are these the most important reasons for us to start embracing social media?  In my mind, these are low-level tasks that have been and always will be important to any organization, including schools.

However, the biggest concern I have with school leaders be unwilling to utilize social media resources, or even worse banning them in their school, is the fallout for the students.  Students who do not know how to utilize these current resources to communicate, collaborate, and learn are not competent according the National Council of Teachers of English  framework developed on 2008.

According to NCTE :
Twenty-first century readers and writers need to
  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
In looking at this list, I am concerned that we are a long way off  from having students who can meet these standards.  If the conversation with school leaders is one that focuses on the low-level tasks described above then we will never lead our students where they need to be.  The bottom line is that if school leaders do not model the use of these resources then we cannot expect teachers to make it a priority either.  If teachers aren’t using these resources then the capacity of students to integrate them will be greatly inhibited.

In closing, I want to make it clear that I intend no disrespect to Forbes or Mr. Gagne, but the fact that school leaders would need to turn to a private consultant to market their schools has me a little bummed.  There are a number of places that our colleagues can get help for free in this areas and some great models available in school leaders that are already doing this work.

I guess it brings me back to the same question we have been asking for a while here..How do we get them to get them on board and see the bigger picture? Any suggestions?  The students are missing out! 
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