In times like these, you really need to keep yourself informed. It is one of the responsibilities that come with living in a democracy.
It is not enough to complain about the bizarre situation in the United States. Even though I am Canadian, it is really important to keep informed.
One new way I am trying to keep informed is by setting up a special Twitter list on American politics. My list is growing daily and it includes many of the dominant opposition voices to the current regime in Washington. I am also including Donald Trump’s account on the list. His tweets are objectionable, but again, it is important to see what he is putting out. A Twitter list is like your own specialized information channel. I use them frequently to focus my feed on specific topics.
I am also using Scoop.it to share the tweets and articles I find important. Keeping informed is part of our responsibility, sharing what we find is also essential.
Apart from developing my new Twitter list, I am also signing up for more political blogs and collecting them for my daily unroll.me e-mail. Again, it is really important to channel as much relevant information as possible to keep aware of a political situation that changes daily.
My list will continue to grow. I need to create a really good news channel through Twitter and at the same time, I want to follow and support those out there that are doing their best to stand in opposition to the current American political situation.
You can do your part – follow my list or create your own.
“Schools should not, in other words, be responsive, welcoming, or servile in the face of change, but should be bulwarks against it. Schools should be the high point from which to watch the flood.”
Gary Chapman The Not School discussion of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death
I read Neil Postman’s book Teaching as a Conserving Activity when I was in teacher’s college. Something stuck with me, although I haven’t read it in over 31 years. To me, there was an important message in this book. Education needs to stand in resistance to the dominant culture.
I have always seen the educator’s role as that of a subversive. We need to resist the dominant culture and teach our children to be critical thinkers.
This is more important now than ever.
For most of us, we are living under a truly evil leader for the first time. This happens, it just hasn’t happened to us before.
Donald Trump is not something that we have seen before in an American President. Denying refugees safe haven and painting them all as dangerous subversives is simply wrong and we who teach need to stand in opposition to this type of thinking.
How do we resist?
I would suggest that this is the time to really embrace social media and teach our children how to use it responsibly. I can no longer stomach those who say that social media is dangerous and has no place in the classroom. Those who say our students use social media just to keep up with the Kardashians are really missing the point. The Kardashians are simply the Flintstones of a new generation.
Let’s move on.
Social media is the best way for all of us to resist the evil that now exists in our society. Remember this, most of us have never lived under a Pinochet, a Franco, a Mussolini. In the days of these and other dictators, there was no light that you could shine on their evil and have it viewed by others.
Our one hope is that the power of social media means we finally have a weapon to deal with ignorance and hate.
In 2007, a group of protesters in Suchitoto, El Salvador were abducted when they were protesting against water privatization. Their capture was caught on film and quickly uploaded to Youtube. Ten years earlier, these protesters would have disappeared never to be seen again.
Because of social media, there was an international protest against the illegal capture and eventually, the Salvadoran Government was forced to release the protestors.
If you know anything about the slaughter of civilians during the civil war in El Salvador this was an incredible event. International pressure fuelled by social media certainly saved the lives of these people.
Now, in 2017 we are faced with a government system that has all the earmarks of the oppressive Salvadoran regime of earlier days. But we have the tools and as educators, we need to use them as a way to stand in opposition to racism and bigotry.
Look what is coming out daily through social media:
Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care says the province will offer to provide life-saving care to children whose surgeries have been cancelled in the United States as a result of recent travel restrictions.
“Given that this is a critical time for these ill children, our ministry and Ontario’s specialized children’s hospitals, which provide best-in-the-world care, feel the responsibility to act quickly,” Eric Hoskins said Friday.
Hoskins said it has come to the government’s attention that some critically ill children are being turned away at the U.S. border solely because of where they were born and that Canada has an obligation to respond.
This is a position I have been in before. A large part of my role as an administrator has been to encourage the development of new teaching techniques based on digital technology and at the same time, work hard at making the learning at school more visible through the use of social media.
The move to digital transformation however does not last. Generally, the tools that we use especially to communicate with parents are not always picked up by the next person to fill the role of school administrator.
There is a systemic problem here. Administrators are not trained in the use of technology or social media. Many are still hesitant to use Facebook or Twitter and fewer still blog to or text their parent communities.
Part of the problem is that many administrators did not teach at a time where the use of digital media was becoming more prevalent in the classroom. There is also very little time spent on forming administrators as digital leaders in their schools. Many administrators are still deeply suspicious of social media.
To me, there are several basic tools that all administrators need to be using. All of these tools have been around for years and do not require a huge amount of technical expertise to use.
Facebook: Many administrators seem to have grown up at a time where Facebook simply was not trusted by educators. What they don’t realize is that most of our parents grew up with Facebook and still use it as a way to communicate with friends and family. Facebook is easily the best tool to let parents into the school to see what is going on every day. Administrators need to use Facebook to open up their schools to their parents – they deserve to know what is going on.
Twitter: Twitter needs to be used as a way to quickly communicate with parents and administrators should also be using it daily to keep up with the most recent trends in education. We have a responsibility to stay well-informed and that means developing a good list of people in the education field that are then followed on a regular basis.
Remind: This may seem like overkill, but parents choose their own way to communicate with their school. You need to use a variety of tools so that parents can choose how they want to hear from you. You don’t need to use Remind, but you need some form of text communication with parents. Remind is very easy to set up and parents are the ones who decide if they want to receive your text messages. Remind is now set up to allow parents to respond to your texts – all in a way that preserves the privacy of the user.
Blogging – you need to blog! The day of the tired out monthly newsletter is gone, thank goodness! Having said that, this does not release the administrator from communicating with parents on a regular basis on what is happening and what is coming up at school. At my last school we used Edublogs to send a weekly post to parents on what was planned for the upcoming week. All the teachers contributed to the blog with a rundown of their plans for their class. The blog was the very best tool we had. Parents and teachers read it every week to keep up to date with all academic, sports and social news coming from the school. It was an invaluable tool and one that really should be used by all administrators.
There are many other tools that can be used to engage your parent community and new ones are being created every day. My main point is that this is part of the administrator’s job in 2017. I don’t know how we can ask our teachers and our students to become adept at using digital technology when our own principals lage so far behind.
There is hope. If you are an administrator – challenge yourself – start learning today!
These are the notes from a recent webinar that I did. I wanted to make sure people were able to get the links we discussed during the session. My first webinar – a very interesting experience!
We started with a prezi that I have used and modified for a few years. It covers a whole host of communication tools, but every time I ask people what they are most interested in it turns out to be blogging. Today seemed to be the same.
The importance of blogging with your parent community
I use a variety of blogs for a variety of purposes:
Both these blogs are Edublogs – http://edublogs.org/ easily my favorite type of blog. It is a WordPress blog with an incredible help desk. I pay around $7.00 a month for each blog and it is money well spent. The assistance from their technical staff is excellent and that is the most important factor for me. There are also lots of great extra features like more templates, special fonts, print friendly button, contact us box and many additional features. When you get a pro subscription you also have at least 50 other blogs you can set up.
The main importance of blogging is keeping in contact with your community. Better than a monthly newsletter you can put it out as often as you want. Parents can subscribe to the blog or you can send out the link. With our community, the blog can be translated into several different languages, a really valuable asset in a community with a high immigrant base.
The community blog does things that a monthly newsletter simply cannot do including
Schedule for the week
Photographs – from the past week
Teacher notes – for the upcoming week – a really important feature!!
Teacher links to newsletters and blogs
Translatable into many other languages
You can embed videos for personal messages using apps like Touchcast
Here is a recent Touchcast I put out on the blog as well as our facebook and Twitter Page – just another way to get your message out there!
Social media apps -Twitter,Facebook,Flickr, Instagram
We have 265 followers following 402 – the Twitter Page is one great tool that we use daily to post photos and updates on what is going on at our school. We also link our Google Calendar up to Twitter so events get posted twice.
Facebook: We have over 100 likes on our Facebook Page and it is a great way to make the school experience more real for parents. We post videos, pictures announcements and interesting information for parents on the page. The most important thing to remember for Twitter and Facebook – post interesting material often. Focusing on the students is one of the best ways to engage your parents.
This is a great way to get the perfect moment to the parents. Parents can sign up to follow Instagram and the photos will show up right in their inbox. The photos are also posted directly to Twitter.
Challenges of connecting to hard-to-reach parent communities
How do we engage? By making students the center of the story. We make short videos of sporting events and post them to Twitter and Facebook. The kids love them so my hope is the students will lead their parents to our sites. Here is a short one made using iMovie.
Finally, in the dying minutes of the webinar we started to address hard to reach communities. We had the opportunity to hear Joe Mazza @Joe_Massa a few times this week. He brought up all sorts of good ideas on how we can engage communities. I have included a Storify here that encompasses some of the main points in his presentation.
We finished on a great question – how to you ensure the safety of the student?
We address this by obtaining informed consent from the parent. We are careful never to publish the names of students and we do our best not to take pictures of students where parents are uncomfortable with social media.
Here is a sample of a letter we have used – we would love to see other examples of letters schools use.
I am continuing to comment on this really interesting series by Josh Work on Edutopia. The posts read like a social media 101 for administrators! We all should be able to measure our progress in social media using the SAMR model. Josh is looking at specific areas that we have responsibility for and he relates each area to the SAMR model.
The second post focuses on community interaction which to me is a key responsibility for all administrators.
It is no longer acceptable to accept the notion that parents will just naturally show up at your school. Parents are much more discerning now, they check out your web page, your Facebook Page (do you have one?) and any other social media tools you are using. It may a while, but your school will establish an online presence that will attract parents to your school. I really believe that this is a key factor now that parents consider when choosing a school.
I have read lots of posts from administrators who work hard to make the learning visible to all parents in the community. My model is Eric Sheninger, the author of Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. There is so much to recommend in this book – I think all administrators need to read this book if they want to stay relevant in a time of rapid change. One thing I have learned from Sheninger and other authors is that we need to make learning visible to our parent community. We need to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and any other tool that allows parents to see what is happening daily in the school.
Using these tools has an interesting impact on students, teachers and parents. Everyone talks about the learning that goes on in the school. Parents in our community really like Remind 101 and Facebook, the kids love Instagram. Our role as administrators is to publish using a variety of tools so that our community can access more information on what is happening every day.
I like how Josh Work has applied the SAMR model to community outreach. I really think we all need to be way past the substitution stage at this point. Writing a conventional newsletter then e-mailing it out is simply not good enough. In Canada, with the Federal CASL legislation, it is now actually illegal to send out unsolicited e-mails.
I love his idea about using QR Codes and especially Aurasma to highlight student work. These are two communication tools that I will have to try in September!
My September plan at my new school will also include setting up a new Edublog for the parent community along with another for staff. I will continue to use Facebook and Twitter along with a brand new Google Site as our school web site – thanks to our school board – AMAZING! I will also continue to use Flickr to store all our school photos and of course Instagram to send daily photos to the school community. I will not produce a monthly newsletter – this is simply not worth the time when there are so many just in time communication tools available.
As an administrator, what communication tools will you be using this year? Where would you put yourself on the SAMR model? Where do you want to be by the end of the year?
Amber Mac is an entrepreneur, television host, professional speaker, and bestselling author. She co-hosts a TV show on CTV/BNN called AppCentral, which airs nationally in Canada, Australia, and South Korea. Amber is a regular contributor on CTV News Channel and has appeared on various other networks, such as CNN. She writes weekly for Fast Company, where she discusses social business, digital productivity, and how to work smarter. Amber has also hosted a number of online video shows for Fast Company, which her digital marketing company produces.
“Amber Mac is a virtual Swiss Army Knife of networking: she displays an endless amount of enthusiasm and energy that nearly crackles off the page. More importantly, she demonstrates a deep and practical understanding of the necessity of extending one’s personal and professional presence online.”