Monday, August 28, 2017

School Presence on Social Media

So, what’s your school’s social media presence like? Has your school just started to dip its toe into the social media landscape by starting a Facebook page? Or have you gone all in with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Zanzaboom?

You’re right, I made that last one up.

Building your school’s social media presence in today’s social media landscape might seem a little intimidating, maybe even a little risky. But I’d argue it’s worth the effort. Effective social media use isn’t something reserved for celebrities and multinational companies. I invite you to consider a few points on why your school should think about building a more robust social media presence.

Get the Word Out, Cheaply
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent ways to get information about your school out to a large portion of your school’s community. Social media doesn’t reach every single person out there, but there are probably quite a few students, parents, and teachers at your school who use social media apps each day. And, so far, social media services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are free to use. Free in that we are giving those companies our attention (and advertisers love our attention) in exchange for the ability to easily connect to content that matters to us. Still--it’s mostly free.

Control the Narrative
I remember requesting and getting permission from my vice principal back in 2011 to start a Facebook page for my high school. Now, the fact is that there was already a Facebook page about my school. But it was a parody page. If you Googled my school back in 2011, looking for our Facebook page, you would probably find the parody page instead.

What’s the problem with having inaccurate or incomplete information about your school online? It’s about having honest, fair representation for your school in the online world.

I’ve been working at El Cajon Valley High School since 2007. I love our students, and I love how hard the educators at my school work to help our students. I’m proud to work in such a supportive, creative, intelligent learning community. But back in 2011, our web presence didn’t reflect the amazing things that I knew were happening at my school. Building our social media presence has helped my school’s character get more accurately portrayed online. We have heart. We care for our community. We celebrate our diversity. It’s tough to get to know what we are about by driving past the front of our school or reviewing our test scores. Our social media use helps us share who we really are.

High school students holding flags from around the world.
Each year ECVHS celebrates Multicultural Week.
A week in which we express our Unity Through Diversity!

Tables filled with donations to refugees: clothing, diapers, etc.
Mr. Trammell sent ECVHS a call to action when he heard about the living conditions of
some refugees in our community. The ECVHS community responded with amazing generosity.

Share Ideas
A couple of years ago I was preparing part of a presentation on using Google Hangouts in the classroom. As luck would have it, I happened to be scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across this post by Franz Ruiz, who was teaching science at ECVHS at the time. He was having his students Skype with a classroom on the other side of the planet, and I had no idea. We worked at the same school, but we were in different departments. We didn’t get to talk shop much. Many of you know it can be challenging to find time to collaborate with fellow educators. But after seeing Franz’ post, I made sure to ask him about his project and how he got connected to educators in other countries. What other cool educational experiments are our fellow educators conducting just a few doors down the hall from us? Sharing those ideas on social media can help to cultivate innovation and collaboration.

Screenshot of a Twitter post showing students seated in desks with their laptops open, facing a video screen.
Mr. Ruiz was having his students Skype with students from another country,
and I probably wouldn't have found out about his cool educational
experiment if he wasn't sharing his ideas on Twitter.

Acknowledge the Hard Work of Colleagues
Some of my favorite posts are those that I get to make when I peek into a classroom and see students engaged in a fantastic learning activity. I don’t plan most of these classroom visits--I just happen to be walking by. And, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to visit all the classrooms on campus during classroom time (librarians lose their librarian powers if they spend too much time outside of the library--away from their books). It’s rewarding to be in a position where I get to notice more of what goes on in my school. I don’t get to see everything cool on campus, but I love sharing the cool things I do see with a wider audience.

 Screenshot of a Tweet that shows high school students working together on a poster project.
I walked into Mrs. Ward's class to help her with a Google Slides question,
and I couldn't help but notice her students deeply engaged in a collaborative poster project. 

Imagine the power of someone who does get to visit each class getting to share the positive things they see on social media. Perhaps an administrator. They visit each class, right? As a teacher, would you be okay with your administrator making a brief post online about what she saw in your classroom? I know my district has rules and procedures around official evaluations from administrators, but there has to be a way to make such posts. It would go a long way to acknowledge the great work of a school’s staff for administrators to share the positive things they see happening.

So, what’s your school’s social media presence like? Can it be better?

Anthony Devine

Anthony is the Teacher Librarian at El Cajon Valley High School (@ECVHS). You can find him on Twitter at @anthonyrdevine and @ecvhslibrary.

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