Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Little Bird and a Book: Using Twitter and Facebook In Education

I was a student at The Ohio State University when Facebook first came on the scene, and admittedly a lot of time was wasted checking various friends' status updates. However, after five years of teaching, my relationship with the social network has changed. It is more of a vehicle to connect to the community, colleagues, school, families, and students. (Caveat: I have a strict, personally-instituted policy to not friend students - or former students -  on Facebook - I suggest and recommend this to any teacher; however, I do invite students into various closed groups for dialogue and feedback - always with an administrator with "admin" privileges.)

So how exactly does an educator best use social media? Like Gahanna! The Gahanna-Jefferson district is brilliant with its use of social media in promoting the "Gahanna brand". Creating and monitoring these accounts allows us to be our own reporter. If your district does not have a social media presence, change that. It will take time for it to gain steam, but once it is established a twitter feed and/or Facebook page could become someone's primary information source!

I have learned more about what our schools' amazing teachers, students, parents, and initiatives do through our Twitter and Facebook pages than anywhere else. That is the information your community needs to hear. The press release is still critical to the well-being of any district; however, a constant feed of positivity is long overdue in our "24 hour news cycle" world. While local news agencies are constantly bombarded for competing stories, having one's own communication presence is vital. Refocus from press releases to post releases.

As the primary administrator of the Gahanna Orchestras Facebook page and twitter feed (linked so a post in one platform will appear in the other) I am responsible for distributing pertinent and positive information about my program. With each post, I am digitally spreading news of our "brand" to over 300 people. Is that a lot in today's digital world when the viral video of the week tops 2 million views? - No. But, it is being shared with stakeholders - and more people than if I never shared the information in the first place! Those 300+ people are now more knowledgable about what the Gahanna Orchestra is all about.

In addition to these two public accounts, within Facebook I have another 'closed group.' This is for my 9-12 grade students to request access and membership is approved by me. Again, I have my principal as an 'admin' within this group to ensure parents know that it is a school monitored and authorized group - not rogue. The group is for the sharing of student-specific information that does not need shared with masses. Example: "Remember orchestra, the changing rooms open at 6:45 to dress into our tuxedos.", "Chamber: Rehearsal next Wednesday, 4:30-6:30pm.", "Fantastic rehearsal today, freshman! Keep up the great focus on intonation!", etc. It is also a meeting place for class discussions, feedback, and building of esprit de corp.

So, what are you all about? What do you want to be all about? Does your community think this? Does your community know how dynamic your school is? They should - they are supporting you financially. They are your "benefactors", and every benefactor or donor I know understands fully the cause in which they contribute. If I am not knowledgeable about an organization, I will not contribute my money toward it.

What do you have to brag about? Does your community know it?! There is an easy way to change that. Know that with one click your "friends" or "followers" can "unfriend" and "unfollow" you - so the content you share is critical. Build your brand. Build your support system. Build your advocacy. Build your community's pride in its schools!!! Make your school the only viable option for your students and families.


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