Social Media and Community Buy-In
The first step in creating a culture of change and innovation is stakeholder buy-in. In education, we often recognize the importance of teacher and student buy-in, but we forget about another critical stakeholder: The community, particularly parents.
What is the best way to get community buy-in for an education initiative? Communication. By communicating directly and honestly, educators can avoid community fears that can ultimately derail efforts to implement new teaching and learning practices.
I recently attended the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ (NASSP) annual conference, where I learned from many principals who have created cultures of innovation. I was particularly impressed by the 2013 NASSP Digital Principals – Dwight Carter (Gahanna Lincoln High School, Gahanna, OH), Ryan Imbriale* (Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts, Baltimore, MD), and Carrie Jackson (Timberview Middle School, Fort Worth, TX).
NASSP’s Digital Principal Award honors principals “who exhibit bold, creative leadership in their drive to harness the potential of new technologies to further learning goals” And these three individuals certainly do. All have led infrastructure changes, equipment upgrades and professional development experiences that have allowed their schools to take advantage of new education tools.
One consistent theme emerges from these principals’ stories: The importance of social media. Each uses it for professional development and has stories about how teachers use it for instruction. But what struck me was that each also uses social media as a primary means for communicating with the community and create buy-in for a new vision of 21st century teaching and learning.
Jackson offered the most concrete example. After its first year of operation, her school, which was designed to be unique in a number of ways (including its use of technology to personalize learning), had a public relations problem. Staff were constantly forced to defend why the school was doing things differently. Why? They had not adequately engaged parents and the community in what they were doing. So they turned to social media.
Jackson now uses Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to interact with staff, parents and the greater community. She blogs weekly and hosts a weekly Twitter chat to discuss education topics. Imbriale and Carter also use Twitter and Facebook for community engagement. Imbriale uses YouTube, too, putting out a weekly message on his school’s YouTube channel. And Carter promotes Skype as a way to engage professionals from both the community and around the world.
By embracing social media, educators control the message that goes out to stakeholders. And they allow community members to get news about the school when and how they want – as Jackson said, “It is personalized learning for families.”
Gone are the days when the only opportunities for the community to interact with the school were by appointment or in a large group meeting. And embracing this increased interaction will help schools win community trust and support for education initiatives.
*I was recently privileged to interview Imbriale about his work – read that interview here.
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
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