Leveraging our stories, utilizing social media in school
Lately I have been hearing the call for educators to tell our stories. Often the news highlights a negative school story while the student success stories are on the back page. We need to reverse this, we need to highlight what really happens in our classrooms. Our students are doing and learning amazing things. Our teachers and administrators are boldly teaching and utilizing 21stcentury skills. The call is for us to tell our amazing stories, because if we don’t, someone else will.
I recently attended the Northwest Council for Computer Education conference, better known as NCCE, in Portland. I had the opportunity to learn from Ginger Lewman , an amazing education consultant and keynote speaker, about “Changing the stories heard: leveraging social media in schools.” She stressed how important it is for educators to share their classroom stories. Every school, every student, every teacher has success stories to share and how it is important for our community to know. In the short time in our NCCE session, the educators in the conference room quickly shared a small sample of what was happening at their schools:
- creating makerspaces in their school
- working with their district on an internship to advise the mayor
- received a $6,000 James Patterson grant
- received Summer Innovation grants
- received 7 grants for nonfiction books
- created classroom libraries of 200 books in each ELA class
- middle school robotics team placed at a local university competition
- created a math/science night at their school
- sponsored a Tech and Art Fair this year
- started a STEM specialist class
- worked with community to improve school track
- created student murals in the hallways
- and my own story where my middle school students sent 4 experiments in small cubes on a NASA rocket
In less than 15 minutes we shared positive news of what we and/or our school are doing. Unfortunately only our schools or classrooms are aware of the awesome works on this list. So instead of the negative news about our schools being told, we need to tell our students’ stories, our stories, our school stories, it is important to share.
How do we do this?
We use social media to share our stories. But then haven’t we been told we shouldn’t be using social media at school? Social media is where most stories are shared, it is where our students share their daily story with each other through Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. There is really no reason why educators shouldn’t use the same platforms students are using. In another NCCE session, entitled the “Peripheral Learner,” Kevin Honeycutt had a profound quote that resonated loud and clear with me regarding the importance of modeling social media. He stated, “students are on a digital playground but no one is on recess duty.” By sharing our stories, we have the opportunity to model appropriate use of social media for our students and school community. We can also teach digital citizenship skills. If we think about it, we learned citizenship etiquette but it was just on a different platform.
What about privacy concerns?
It is true, social media has changed our views about privacy. Once you enter a public space, such as a football game or educational conference, then you have accepted being public. There is no real expectation of privacy. If we publish news highlighting the athletic achievements of our school football teams, then student information is being shared. So why wouldn’t we share the learning achievements of our student classroom teams? We, our school community, need to decide it is also valuable and important to highlight our classroom learning. Having done so then we can work to ensure privacy and safety considerations once we publish and share. This can easily be done by not sharing names or pictures of individual students unless we have parental permission.
What needs to change is that individual educators and schools have permission to proudly share the stories of learning and thinking happening both inside and outside the classroom. Schools need to have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. Stories of schedules, school updates, and classroom celebrations need to be openly shared. Stories of students creating makerspaces, painting murals, and sending experiments on rockets need to be shared. These stories are important and our parents and our community need to know. We need to model how to share success and how to communicate in private when necessary. Not everything or every story needs to be told, but modeling how to do this is important for the students in our classroom. Let’s hope we can begin leveraging social media to make our stories be heard.