The explosion of social media over the past decade has not only changed the nature of networking in both social and professional circles, but is now on the precipice of changing the landscape of education. While it seems like yesterday that it was “taboo” for teachers (and adults) to find themselves on social networking sites, the paradigm has shifted so radically that teachers are now using social media in their classrooms and parents have come to rely on sites such as Twitter and Facebook for important school news and events. In fact, many schools (mine included) have moved away from traditional “mailings” and have gone completely digital in a very short period of time.
At the start of this past school year, I ventured into the world of Facebook as a vehicle for connecting with parents after an unsuccessful attempt at using Twitter for that same purpose (more on this in a later post). With over 1 billion users–many of whom are the parents of students–Facebook is now leading the way in the world of social media and has become an obvious and easy way to connect with families. There was of course some initial apprehension on my part around whether I could “keep up” with the site while attending to everything that goes with being a building principal. However, I quickly learned that it was not only easy (and natural) to post to the site, but the site itself had gained momentum and popularity in the building. In fact, I soon found that teachers and staff members were emailing me on a regular basis with pictures and “blurbs” to post as events occurred inside of their classrooms. In the end, we were left with a digital archive that chronicled our entire school year.
In looking back at the year, we found that there were many positives to developing a Facebook page for our school. Here are the top five:
1) Communication with Families: Perhaps the most basic (and important!) function of a Facebook page is communication. By “liking” the school’s page, families can receive regular updates on school news and events on their Facebook News Feed whenever they sign-on to their account. Families can also receive information without “liking” the page by clicking on the link that is on our school website. This is ideal for people who either do not have Facebook or are concerned with the security of linking their account with the school page.
2) Celebration of Accomplishments: While communication is the most basic function of the page, perhaps the most enjoyable is the opportunity to share the many accomplishments of our student body with the school community. We regularly post individual and group accomplishments along with the many achievements of our school as a whole. These posts not only build togetherness and support around the diverse talents of our students, but also generate the most “likes” from community members who follow the page.
3) “A Window into the School”: Too often parents feel disconnected to their child’s school and know very little about the “day-to-day” for students. This is especially true for parents of high school students. To help with this, we often send student and teacher “photographers” out in the building to capture our students in action. This might include students who are working in our science labs, engaging in a discussion in English class, or exercising in physical education. These types of posts not only provide a better sense of what is happening in our school, but also provide possible “talking points” for parents and students later that evening.
4) Connection of the School Community: The various posts about the accomplishments of our students often prompt comments and interaction among the community members who “like” the page. This virtual dialogue not only helps to further build a positive school community, but also allows past graduates and other members of our town to connect with our school. Parents also have the option to “direct message” a question or comment to me if they prefer to not engage in a public dialogue.
5) A Digital Archive: Simply stated, a well managed Facebook page that is updated regularly is a digital archive that tells “the story” of your school. It provides community members with a sense of what the school is about and is perfect for parents and students who are new to the school. It is also an excellent resource for prospective families who are considering the purchase of a home in your community.
As we look to our second year of maintaining a Facebook page, our top challenge and priority is to draw more traffic and “likes” to the page so that more families are connected to our school. It is important to be relentless in communicating the importance of visiting the page to community members. We regularly display our school’s page at parents events and have posted the link on our school website. Parent involvement and community support are essential components of student success and Facebook provides one vehicle for helping to make that happen. With that said, take a look at our page (link below) and feel free to “like” it!
You guys have done a great job with reaching out, John. My apprehension around FB is that I use it for personal connections. I will need to look deeper into safeguarding my personal account because, I agree, FB is important for connecting with families. We have to go where our community is instead of asking them to all switch to something like Twitter or a district blog.
When I first began my career as Principal at Millbrook High School, Principal Falino strongly encouraged me to begin a Facebook Page for my high school. Although, the undertaking was originally viewed skeptically by Board of Education members and some faculty, I forged ahead. The site now has over 300 “likes”and is viewed as an important source for posting all school highlights, news and information. Besides, the page serving as an important communication tool, it has also given me a wonderful opportunity to chronicle my first year as a principal and archive all of the special moments that I experienced. I never imagined that this simple use of social media would bring me such a great sense of satisfaction. In fact, seeing a post reach over a thousand people or reading a comment from an enthusiastic parent gives me the drive to constantly “report” our MHS good news! Just like a proud parent, I look forward to posting all of our upcoming milestones with pictures and stories for 2013-2014. Thank you for paving the way, John and for being an excellent model of how to communicate effectively with the entire school community!