I have just recently been appointed to the role of principal and began my new leadership role the first day back from the Christmas break in January. After blogging about the use of mobile devices from the perspective of classroom instruction and student learning for over five years, I now find myself considering how these same tools that can be used to help students learn can also be used to strengthen the home-school connection.
In experimenting with new ideas and practices, I have turned to two of my most trusted tools – my iPhone and Twitter. Immediately after beginning in my new role, I set up a school Twitter account and started tweeting; tweeting images of some of the work our students have produced; tweeting links to resources for parents and community members; tweeting reminders about upcoming school and board events; tweeting updates about bus cancelations after the most recent snow storm. In discussing the purpose of this account with staff, parents and admin colleagues, I have described my use of a school Twitter account as a daily newsfeed between monthly newsletters. I’ve also mentioned that the best part is that I update the Twitter feed from my mobile device so that I can really tweet updates from anywhere.
As Twitter doesn’t compile statistics as a blog would, it’s hard to say just how many people are accessing these tweets. One could look at follower counts but I have expressly stated to the parent community in other communications that the profile is public and one does not need a Twitter account to access tweets. This makes it difficult to know what the depth and breadth of use is after only 5 weeks of tweeting. I would definitely be open to ideas on how I could track traffic.
The other consideration is that this type of use of a social media tool is still really new for schools. While using Twitter as a school communication tool may seem obvious to those who are already engaged in these tools, it may not be so obvious the the wider community who so not use social media tools as often. Building community capacity is part of the work that needs to be done in order to really make the use of social media tools a viable way to communicate with the wider school community. What does help is that Twitter is now a well known tool used by celebrities and traditional media so the task of explaining what Twitter itself is has mostly been taken care of already.
I believe that using Twitter as a school communication tool helps to inspire public confidence in the work that we do everyday with their children. It opens up the school in a way where the community can be updated on a daily basis on the dynamic work that teaching and support staff do with their children that has typically not been communicated well enough in the past.
When I sense that the account has started to become an entrenched tool, I would like to experiment with other communication ideas that use other web tools. What could those be? One idea could be conducting surveys to gauge community sentiment using Google Drive. I know there are many ideas and examples on the web and I look to my PLN on Twitter to point me to interesting examples and ideas.
I am interested in your thoughts and ideas on using mobile tools to increase parent engagement in the school community. Please use the comment box to share. If you are interested in seeing what I am doing with Twitter to communicate with my school community, you can see/follow the school Twitter account here.