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School leaders: Have you mastered social media?

By Team ISTE
February 14, 2019
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It’s an exchange that frustrates parents worldwide:

“What did you learn at school today?”


This stalled conversation is being phased out in many school districts, where parents get daily updates from educators on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Social media -- once a taboo subject in schools -- is now being embraced by schools and districts as an easy way to reach parents.

Still, it can be uncomfortable for many school administrators.

Social media is becoming the norm

We’ve come a long way from a time when educators were forbidden from using social media to connect with students and parents.

Today, in classrooms around the world, kindergartens are tweeting, middle schoolers are teaching master classes on social media to parents and high school students are teaming up on projects with peers in different states and countries.

One critical element is savvy leadership. Take Patrick Larkin, assistant superintendent for learning at Burlington Public Schools in Massachusetts.

The first time he asked permission to create a blog for his school, he got the same warning most students hear in the classroom: Just don’t do it.

His next boss not only supported the idea, he had his own blog.

What a difference a leader makes. Larkin writes a popular education blog and more than 49,000 follow him on Twitter @patrickmlarkin. The district Twitter account has 3,000 followers. More than 100 blogs connect Burlington Schools to each other, the communities they serve and the education family.

So how does an education leader master social media and incorporate it into modern learning and teaching?

Here are a few of Larkin’s discoveries:

Tell your own story

With social media, schools don’t have to wait for TV cameras to broadcast their successes. What Johnny learned in school today can be sent directly to parents and the community as a whole. Sure, not everything is going to positive, but it is better than sitting back and waiting for other people to tell your story.

Do as I do

When administrators use social media themselves they model etiquette and skill for their students, teachers and parents. They should be instructional leaders for their schools.

Ask for money

Use social media to advocate for the resources you need to accomplish your school’s goals.

The entire community benefits

One of the first things families do when they relocate is search for information about schools. By having a positive digital footprint, your school can be a shining example of what your community has to offer.

Gain the competitive advantage

Students skilled at social media can set themselves apart in the brutal world of college entrance. It’s expected that most applicants will have good essays, impressive references and excellent grades. Many schools also are checking their social media profiles. Students trained to create a dynamic social media presence will have an edge.  

Get a job

Many students work while in school or seek out internships. A good social media profile on LinkedIn has proven effective in helping them land that good job.  

ISTE Advocacy and Policy Summit 2019 - Edtech Advocacy