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Articles: Social Media

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Palm Beach County (Fla.) School District is the latest district to take its social media accounts to the next level. The district is launching its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, which will represent the district as a whole as opposed to individual teachers or administrators. The district’s public affairs department will run the operation, coinciding with a growing trend nationwide to emphasize social media.

Have you ever dreamed of experiencing a watershed moment in your field? Moments like the splitting of the atom or the landing of a man on the moon? If you're an educational leader, buckle up, because your moment is here. Schools are still experiencing the shockwaves of the Internet, a transformative global network that is radically changing how we think about learning and schooling. Moments like these are exhilarating, because our decisions matter so much.

I’m not a Luddite, or even a technophobe. I just don’t have time to waste on technology that promises the world but fails to deliver. I’m the “show me” administrator, the doubting Thomas of school leaders. I write not about the latest and greatest technology for those administrators on the avant garde. Rather, this is a cautionary tale about letting the digital cognoscenti dash ahead to pastures new while we figure out how tried and tested technology can help us now.

The textbook, The lecturer and the classroom are three pillars of modern-day schooling that date back hundreds of years. Each was invented to solve a problem.

The textbook was invented because information was scarce, the lecturer because teachers were few and the classroom because learning was local. These enduring icons persist into the Internet age, shaping our view of learning and driving the popularity of their digital grandchildren, things like iPad “textbooks” and the Kahn Academy “lectures.”


#cpchat – connected principals

#edadmin – school administrators

Education Levels

#earlyed – early age education

#preschool – preschool

#kedu – kindergarten education

#kinderchat – kindergarten education

#elemchat – elementary grades education

#midleved – middle grades education

#highered – higher education


#edreform – education reform

#ptchat – parent-teacher issues

#parenting – parenting

#bullying – bullying

#cybersafety – cybersafety

I have a monthly email communication with Elliot Soloway, a University of Michigan professor and the chair of ISTE’s Special Interest Group on Mobile Learning, who writes our Going Mobile column with Cathie Norris. Somewhere within the email thread, Soloway is sure to write words such as these: “Someone has to tell the emperor he’s naked.”

There is a catch phrase among educators on Twitter: Lurking and learning. It’s used to describe the first steps an administrator or educator new to Twitter should take. According to Tom Whitby, a retired English teacher turned education professor at St. Joseph’s College in New York, who helped create #edchat, by “lurking and learning,” searching for relevant people, and taking time to see how others engage on Twitter, the initial learning curve will gradually flatten out.

On Feb. 23, Steven Anderson, instructional technologist for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (N.C.) Schools, celebrated his three-year anniversary—on Twitter. Anderson began exploring Twitter in 2009 as a way of finding people with similar interests, opposing views, and resources on integrating technology in the classroom to share with teachers and staff in his district of 57,000 students.

It’s becoming clearer by the minute that, as Web technologies open more and more doors for learners, they also pose more and more challenges to traditional thinking about schools. At the center is figuring how best to prepare students for the vast learning opportunities they have outside of the traditional education system. While the challenges are different for each individual school and district, all will be forced to come to terms with five new realities in the short term.

While Facebook and Google+ are popular social networks for everyday life, dozens of other networks have been created to provide safe and effective social learning environments for K12 education. Social learning networks (SLNs) allow students to learn 21st-century skills. Students can build online portfolios and resumes and collaborate with peers through project-based learning, which will help them in college or the workforce.

Let’s be honest. Flipping the classroom and using clickers and other new products can only have a modest impact on student achievement. Why? Because the underlying pedagogy of such innovations is still direct instruction, with a teacher telling students stuff and then students working to remember that stuff.

Many districts have blocked YouTube because it either served as a distraction or raised concerns over appropriate use. Its new portal, however, offers solutions to teachers.

The Web 2.0 video site launched YouTube for Schools on Dec. 12, which allows schools to sign up for the site’s education channel, YouTube EDU, which previously only hosted videos from colleges and university professors. By joining this site, schools automatically disable certain often distracting features, such as posting comments.

We haven’t seen this big a change in education in 500 years. Every learner with an Internet connection can build a personalized, global network of people and information. It’s a shift that Robert Darnton, a Harvard University history professor, compares to watershed moments like the invention of the printing press. To stay current, every educator needs to dive into these networks ASAP. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.”

Clintondale (Mich.) Community Schools’ high school has turned the traditional school day upside-down by asking teachers to assign short video lectures as homework and have students do activities, participate in discussions and complete assignments in class, with their teacher at hand to answer questions.