Social Media and School Leadership

Lorrie Jackson recently interviewed me via email on the topic of heads of school and their use of social media. Her questions and my answers (slightly tidied up) are below. You can read her interviews with several heads of school here.

1.    Why should heads of school be involved in social media?

As the institution’s leader, school heads need to visible. Showing up and being there is one of the responsibilities of the head. It’s why they appear at curriculum evenings, athletics events, the play, the picnic, the assembly, the reception etc. Social media is another of those places. It also gives the head an opportunity to promote the school, enter the dialogue and be part of the conversation.

We want our schools to be visible. And we want our schools to speak with a mission consistent voice. The head can be a huge contributor in that effort.

Social media is  a place to demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning. Social media are exceptional tools for learning and schools and heads need to be learners. Some schools can afford to hire a cadre of community media managers. Most can’t and don’t . The head can play a role in filling that gap and demonstrate to colleagues that even fossils can contribute.  So key reasons: Learning, leading, community building, marketing, communication, reputation management and – most important – values: Setting the tone for how your school is perceived and what it stands for.

Lastly – FUN.

Heads care about all these things and here is how they can play a part.

2.    Does your school tweet and if so, how is that different than what you tweet?

Our school does tweet @poughkeepsieday. At the moment I am the prime tweeter for the school but we are working on distributed tweeting so that we create a more lively twitter presence.  Tweeting for the school is institutional. Tweeting as myself is individual although always with the awareness that my name is inextricably entwined with the school.

3.    What social media sites are you active on?

Poughkeepsie Day School Facebook and the Poughkeepsie Day School Alumni Association Facebook. Less actively on Flickr, YouTube and LinkedIn.

I am also an admin on the NYSAIS Facebook page.

Twitter – as above.

Connected Principals blog. ISED ning and assorted other education nings – where I am more of a consumer than a producer.

My own blog.

I use Twitter to keep connected with what is happening in education. The educators I follow on Twitter are the most thoughtful, interesting and informative in the Twitter education world. It is an invaluable resource and a means of connection.

4.    Of these sites, which do you use for professional reasons and which for personal reasons?

Those are all professional. I do have a personal Facebook page but it remains fairly neglected.

5.    On Twitter in particular, what topics do you usually like to tweet about?

As @JosieHolford I interact  on issues that I care about. I share links to resources that I have found and think will be of value. I express opinions about education and schools. I share the tweets of others when I find them useful and important. I join in discussions at various hashtags e.g #edchat. I also follow the tweets of areas of personal interest @I-W-M (Imperial War Museum) and @BBCArchive for example and use their links to routinely be connected with interesting resources.  I am interested in many areas of school management and leadership and academic disciples. So I tweet and retweet on educational theory, educational practice, learning, literacy, learning and the brain, child development, the future, psychology, school design, marketing, history, curriculum design, school reform, communications, technology, and on all the interconnections between and among them.

6.    What feedback (retweets, comments in person, etc.) have you gotten about your Twitter presence?

Most people with whom I interact face-to-face know little or nothing about Twitter. Most people I meet are unconvinced of the value of Twitter as a preeminent tool for learning and professional development. They rarely get beyond the concept of “I don’t have time for that” and “I don’t care whether someone had brussel sprouts for breakfast”. In so doing , I think they are missing out on a valuable resource. Those who are in the twitterverse are generally delighted to connect, share, communicate and support.

7.    What suggestions would you give to other heads of school interested in developing a professional presence on social media sites?

Jump right in. Do not wait until you understand it all. Don’t delegate the work to others  (entirely) and never to someone who does not understand your school on a deep level.

Find those in your school who are already dabbling or immersed in social media. Begin to distribute responsibility to those who trust the school and its leadership and who understand the school and its mission and philosophy on a deep level. Do not fear a deluge of negativity coming at you. Getting attention is the hard thing, getting in the game  and into the conversation is the real issue.

Unless you know right now that the hordes carrying pitchforks are at your school gates, no-one is poised to jump on you online.  And the thing is – you will not engender hostility by being in the game. If the storm clouds are already gathered, then this is an opportunity to create counter weather systems. Lots more advice on how to deal with the rare annoying and negative comment. (Basically – let it be. Social media is a place to do that all-important listening and learning. Social media should not be a unidirectional cheerleading megaphone but a voice in the mix.)

But anon. We are all still learning about this stuff. And the learning will never end.  I am happy to talk with any head about to take the plunge.

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