My post PLN: A brief review outlines the new one I tried - The Educator's PLN (edupln.ning.com) - in comparison with my trusted favourite, Twitter (Twitter.com). Twitter, of course, came out tops.
I have been using Twitter for over a year now and I find it invaluable as a resource for ideas, support and news. I recently spoke at the Google Summit KL, and in the scripting session I attended by Evan Scherr*, he finished by asking how many of us in the room were on Twitter? I was shocked at the poor response, but glad he then evanglised about how educators must be on Twitter. I agree with him whole-heartedly, it is an essential tool in being conected with a global network of like-minded educators - and if you are not connected, you are missing out.
This morning I read a great post about the power of Twitter and how we, as educators, can fight against the negative portrayal of today's educational climate in the media. In the post, '3 Reasons Why the School Principal Needs to Tweet' (Mark W. Guay, 2013), Guay advocates the use of principals taking control of what is in the media by creating their own media channel. He states that:
Great schools (online, blended, and traditional) act as nurturing centers that foster creative development and high-quality art, math, and science skills; and school is the medium to advance human development and better society. The internet took our society into hyper speed and successful schools will quickly follow.By default then, can we assume that those who aren't successful, won't'? Is it won't or can't - if there is something worth Tweeting about, do it. Why not? What is there to lose?
Schools need to take control and advertise the great stuff they are doing using Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, and successful schools will "promote the positive-learning center school leaders know their school to be". This means not only are schools getting free publicity, they are also acting as positive role models about how to act responsibly, safely, ethically and positively in online interactions, an important literacy that needs to be promoted (see my posts Global Digital Citizenship, and Teaching Information Literacy).
Guay suggests some easy ways to self-promote, to which I would add a few more ideas:
1) Blogging: have a school blog page that acts as a constant ticker tape of the great stuff that is going on; assign leaders and departments to write weekly and share achievements and successes; get learners' blogs linked to it to showcase the writing they are doing and sharing with the world; get a homeroom class to make a weekly contribute on a rotational basis; get he sports department to share successes and comments; get CAS students to share reflections on their work - just create a community who shares in the positives.
2) Twitter: creating a handle is not enough. You have to use it. Guay suggests sending out "3-5 daily tweets that stay on the positive" or "include interesting facts to feed the students' minds", or perhaps even "crack a joke here and there and be human". The power can be seen but only through use. Recently, we held a special end of semester event that saw Middle School learners working vertically to solve a murder mystery; they had to write Twitter summaries, create photofits, find clues in a customised MincraftEdu space, attend press conferences, listen to news reports and work together to find out, 'whodunnit'. It was a great day and generated a huge buzz. It also finally hit the power of Twitter home. At the start of the day, it was stated that Mrs Holly's mission was to get our hashtag, #daysofnexus, trending. The learners got on board, the teachers got on board and, eventually, by the end of the day - we did it! We trended in Singapore. The organisers of the day were chuffed. Through contacts, we had some of my followers from Australia to America commenting. At last, the power was seen. We put our school on the map.
3) Pinterest: Guay suggests handing over control to a student who can "upload pictures of student photos, paintings". It is free and gets amazing work out there. See also Instagram.
4) Facebook: a much touted free tool to easily share events, photos and messages. However, use with a word of caution - a recent article in the Guardian suggests that it may in fact be "dead and buried" to teens.
Overall, Guay advocates that schools must utilise this free publicity which will only work through constant and committed use:
It takes time to develop the benefits from having an online presence. However, through time, the community and your students will start seeing how to use social media wisely and will have more reason to believe in the school system. (Guay, 2013)Personally, I am new to social media as a promotional tool. I have only been Tweeting and Blogging for just over a year, but I have reaped many benefits; not only have a forged links and connections with amazing educators around the globe, I have been asked to present at conferences, and write articles. I have shared student work and conducted research. I have found a supportive personal learning network that has taught me so much. It does require sustained use, but it truly is worth it. I have learned so much about myself and others; I have been supported through dark times and praised through good times. I do believe the time is worth it and that all educators must cultivate an online presence to model positive Internet use.
*(Check out Evan's great blog www.scherrology.com, follow him on Twitter @EvanScherr, and Google+ +Evan Scherr)