Building Student Social Capital

Last week I was at a meeting where our discussion focused on social capital.  When I googled social capital, I was given this definition,

  1. Social capital refers to the collective value of all “social networks” [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [“norms of reciprocity”].

There is also a great article put out by Harvard Kennedy School about social capital.

Getting back to our discussion, my group talked about how the system in schools was a source of social capital.  This system included a good traditional education with successful navigation through high stakes tests, good grades, college prep, and expectations of educational support at home.

This discussion made me start to question the system and how it prepared students for the future. Is having a good traditional education the best form of social capital?  If the system doesn’t work for a person, where do they turn?  Is the system right for our kids or does it need to be modified?  Is our purpose as educators to help the kids navigate the system or prepare them for life if the system fails them?

I am starting to understand or believe that the current system only works for a small portion of our youth as a source of social capital.  They do not turn to the system to gain any ground in their social lives.  They actually turn to social media to make some social noise.   They turn to their social networks to research, ask questions, connect, learn, vent, and share knowledge. More information is coming at them through their online connections than they could ever pick up in class; some good and some bad.  They often don’t know what to do with that information. So my new question is, shouldn’t our purpose now be to help kids navigate through their social networks in order to use them as a beneficial source of positive, effective social capital?  Shouldn’t we help them see how their digital footprint actually makes a difference in their future success?

I’m an elementary principal and many may think, it’s too early to expose kids to social media.  I agree to a point, but I feel I need to get them ready through safe online avenues (todays meet, kidblogs) so that they are not drowning when they do jump into the social pool.  My job is to teach them digital responsibility.  I am responsible to help them create a digital footprint that will benefit them.

I tell my students that I use my school Twitter account to “make them famous”.  I tell them I love sharing the great things they are doing and I feel that the school culture has been affected in a positive way because the kids want to perform so they can be made famous.  It’s to the point where they are now asking me when I see them, “Mr. Hoopes, are you going to make us famous?”  It is an honor for me to tell my school story through what my students and teachers are doing.  They know, I am #principalproud of what they are doing.  They know I expect great things from them and they are living up to those expectations.  Is what I am doing helping them see the benefit of proper digital citizenship?  I believe so.  I believe my school’s transparency is a source of social capital for my students.  #teamkid #PawPower


  1. Great piece, Kyle. I think we underestimate the power that schools have in creating social capital – for students and faculty (and maybe they don’t need to be separate investments?). Any investment in social capital pays dividends. I like how you are “making kids famous” via twitter. I am going to steal that idea to make a few teachers famous as well.

    April 26, 2015
  2. Kyle Hoopes said:

    Thanks Tim. It took me a few years to realize the impact my school could have on my students and teachers’ social capital based on what I did to promote my school.

    April 30, 2015

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