Your School Needs a Facebook Page

“Instead of worrying about the message your school is sending on social media platforms, consider the message your school is sending by NOT engaging with social media at all.” M. Peacock via Ferriter, Ramsden, Sheninger.

A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend of mine who has a strong online presence, Kye Grace (@kyegrace), and he encouraged me to use social media for educational purposes – both to connect with other educators as well as communicate to and with parents of students at our school. I started blogging and created both a personal Twitter account and a professional account (my personal account eventually lost out to my professional account – thus the “formal” @MrWejr).

He also gave me an idea to create a Facebook Fan Page for the school. He said that it would be a great way to communicate and share the great things happening at the school as well as a way to post interesting links, images, and videos. At the time, Facebook in school was a bit of a frustration for many teachers and administrators so I pushed that aside for about a month to think about it. A colleague and I were discussing Facebook and he mentioned that parents at his school had created their own Facebook Page for the school and were leaving some negatively toned comments on topics such as head lice and behaviour. At that point I decided to take (at the time) a risk and I created our “Parent Info For Kent Elementary” Facebook Page.

Parents immediately loved it. I could post information and great things happening in classrooms at the school from my phone as the day progressed. Some school and district staff were a bit concerned as to the conversations that would happen in the public domain (without their knowledge). After some dialogue, thoughts and an experience with a post that would be better discussed in person, I disabled the Discussion Board. I completely managed the messages on the page; only I could post while others could comment but I was extremely careful and moderated each comment.

Things have gone extremely well with our Facebook Page – parents love it. We have grandparents and other relatives, former students, and community members (businesses, reporters, etc) that “Like” the page and therefore get constant updates on their Facebook Page. It is THE best way to showcase the great things that are happening at our school.

I just finished reading “Essentials for Principals: Communicating & Connecting With Social Media” by Bill Ferriter (a brilliant and key member of my PLN and a teacher from North Carolina, @plugusin on Twitter), Jason Ramsden (a chief tech officer at a school in North Carolina and @raventech on Twitter) and Eric Sheninger (a high school principal in New Jersey and @NMHS_Principal on Twitter). I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK FOR ANY EDUCATOR CONSIDERING USING SOCIAL MEDIA AT THEIR SCHOOL. The authors challenged me to be more transparent and increase the use of social media by stating,

While establishing strong lines of communication within the schoolhouse has always been essential for maintaining focus and for building momentum toward shared objectives, communication beyond the schoolhouse has become more important than ever. Faced with shrinking budgets and constant scrutiny in today’s accountability culture, public relations has quickly become a new priority for principals. After all, informed communities tend to care more about their schools. (p.5)

…Principals who take the time to respond honestly to teachers, students, parents, and community leaders in the digital forums they have already embraced will soon find that they are building communities of enthusiastic supporters who feel connected to one another and to their local schools for the first time. (p.10)

…We have to be willing to open ourselves to criticism and to interact directly with important stakeholders in order to be taken seriously. (p.10)

Following the reading of this book, I opened our Facebook Page for others to post as well as added the Discussion Board. We may end up with some controversial topics on there but my feeling is that these conversations are already happening and I would rather the school be a PART of this important dialogue. I will still continue to moderate closely and encourage more face to face dialogue to happen in the school.

We need to break free of the communication that we have used in the past and move to one that encourages dialogue and two-way communication between parents, educators, students, and community members. Through social media, we will get a better picture of what we are doing well and what we need to do better as a school.

If your district bans social media tools, it is far overdue to have this critical conversation around its use because, as the authors of the aforementioned book quote A. Mac, “in just a few years if you haven’t adopted social media in a significant way you risk shutting out the best and most powerful communications channel we’ve ever known.” Not only is it important for educators to connect with others via social media, I believe schools NEED to connect with ALL interested stakeholders with a school Facebook Page.

Obviously there are some precautions to take when using social media as a communication tool for a school. For more info on this as well as Twitter and other social media tools, order the the book “Communicating and Connecting With Social Media”; there are some great handouts, letters, and useful resources to overcome these hurdles.

Thank you to Bill, Eric and Jason for challenging and leading our thinking around the use of social media in schools.

Cross-posted at “The Wejr Board Blog”.  Please click here to read some fantastic comments/questions from other parents and educators on this topic.

11 comments for “Your School Needs a Facebook Page

  1. Jesse Bluma
    August 11, 2011 at 12:26 am

    “We need to break free of the communication that we have used in the past and move to one that encourages dialogue and two-way communication between parents, educators, students, and community members. Through social media, we will get a better picture of what we are doing well and what we need to do better as a school.”

    Social media is an excellent tool for schools. Yet, it is important to remember that parents and students today have different values than 20 years ago (http://pointeviven.blogspot.com/2011/07/popular-tv-shows-teach-children-fame-is.html). It has become more and more vital for educators to be more and more detailed with specific and direct instruction on how to communicate in a respectful manner in and out of the classroom. Often email, Facebook, and voicemail become one-way paths to send emotional messages and unfounded complaints and demands.

    It is also important to recognize than in every community there are families that do not allow the Internet in their home. Also, in every community there are those that do not have the money for computer access at home, especially in highly transient states with large immigrant populations.

    One more thing to keep in mind is that despite teacher emails, websites, and Facebook pages there are many students and parents that do not make an effort to use any of these tools. Curiously, they do spend a lot of time using these same social networks to communicate and stay informed with other things. That goes back to the shift in values and bell curve of human behavior (http://pointeviven.blogspot.com/2011/07/popular-tv-shows-teach-children-fame-is.html).

    • August 11, 2011 at 5:43 am

      Thanks for adding to the conversation, Jesse. The school in which I work is in a lower income area and access is definitely an issue. We would never have online communication as the ONLY communication as that would work to further marginalize those in our community. Social media is a tool that should be used in addition to the phone calls, newsletters, and emails. I have to say that I have had more positive response about our Facebook page from parents and the community than any other medium we have used.

      Your other points are also very important and that is why we need to continue to model effective use of social media.

      Thanks again for your comment!

  2. August 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    I totally agree with this article, our school has a facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=35199399968#!/pages/Global-Jaya-International-School/148071621939633 and also a Twitter account. http://twitter.com/#!/GlobalJaya a quote from John Switzer from the IBO was that “We need to meet the students were they are at”.

  3. James
    September 12, 2011 at 11:55 am

    ChrisI can’t find your facebook page. Is it available to public to view? I would like to see it.

  4. November 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I think just from an enrollment standpoint social media is a huge platform for schools. I’ve heard a lot of schools ban the use of Facebook by faculty because of ethical concerns, however, I think the “ethical problems” are extreme cases. A lot of people now have separate and personal Facebook/Twitter accounts. Plus, a Facebook or Twitter account is an easy way for teachers to contact parents.

    Although, staying on top of a school’s Facebook may be tough for a busy faculty and administrators.

    Michael Hines
    EnrollMark.com

    • Mary Miller
      November 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      I used to be one of those people who were strongly against Facebook and other forms of social media. However, I have come to realize these can be strong tools if used appropriately. Society, in general, is ever-evolving and we clearly see that there is a strong shift from traditional methods of teaching, learning and working to twentieth century teaching, learning and working. Long gone are the days where we see no or even one computer in the classroom. Even more evident is the way teacher’s colleges are training new teachers. Technology is being heavily promoted and used because it is such an effective tool in communicating. For instance, the use of cell phones. I know many people are against the use of cellphones in the classroom. However, we need to stop thinking about the fact that it’s just a cell phone. It’s more than that. It’s a standard and scientific calculator, global media, a computer, a GPS, a remote and lots more. Although it is definitely a challenge to even regulate the use of certain forms of technologies such as cell phones and encourage the use of Facebook, schools should really start planning on ways on how to incorporate such tools in the classroom especially since majority of the world has one.

      • November 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm

        Hi Mary,

        I completely agree with you. My wife was a teacher in Tucson, Arizona, and recently we have moved to the Phoenix area after her charter school closed. A lot of her time was spent telling students to put their phones away, or stay off Youtube and Facebook. However, she is now a guidance counselor for an online high school, and the most effective form of communication for her to reach students is Facebook. So, in a sense she now wants students to be logged on to Facebook regularly to stay up to date on their progress.

        I wrote a short blog post about this subject on my companies website. Upon researching this subject, I found a lot of teachers/schools embracing the new technology. Some teachers are using group text messages to send out class notes, vocabulary lists, study guides and so on. I think embracing the technology is ideal for teachers in the future. Although, you have to draw a line somewhere and make sure students aren’t abusing the use of this new technology.

        You can read my blog post here:

        http://www.enrollmark.com/2011/11/01/technology-in-the-classroom-%E2%80%93-embrace-it-or-prohibit-it/

        Michael Hines
        EnrollMark.com

        • Mary Miller
          November 15, 2011 at 5:01 pm

          Hi Mark!

          Great blog post! I definitely notice the shift in the need to incorporate technology to enhance instructional methods. New teachers readily embrace the concept of using Facebook and even cell phones whereas, I still notice much resistance from those veteran teachers who still resort to traditional methods. Consequently, I believe these forms of instruction somewhat hinder student learning because students are born into a new world of technology. If you go on YouTube, you can find significant evidence of learning when you see two year olds using the iPad or young teens creating their own blogs. I agree with you in terms of the importance of embracing these new technologies and it’s nice to know that your wife has seen the value of incorporating facebook, which is often seen in a negative light, turn it into something positive. These technologies can be used as great instructional tools and when used appropriately, authentic learning can take place.

  5. November 16, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people for this topic, however, you seem like you know what you’re
    talking about! Thanks

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