This is the first in a two-part series on helping Superintendents get started using Twitter.
It’s 2015, and social media has undeniably become a permanent part of the fabric of our society. It’s time that educators, and that includes you, Superintendents, take the leap, engaging and becoming more comfortable with these new tools. Of all the social media tools available, Superintendents seem to be favoring Twitter as the tool of choice. Why is this? From my personal experience and work as a Superintendent, I can offer you six compelling reasons.
Engage with your constituents – parents, students, teachers, community
Social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter) is where your community resides. You can still communicate in the traditional ways – paper or electronic newsletters, emails and automated phone calls. There are people who prefer these modes of communication, and you don’t want to alienate them. Using Twitter provides the potential that your messages – your more frequent and shorter messages – will be read and understood by parents, students, teachers and community members. Tweets that engage stakeholders might include weather emergency cancellations/delays, links to your newsletter and/or blog posts, or general happenings in the district (more on that below in #6). You could even live tweet during board meetings to share the results of an important vote with those in the community unable to attend. If you want to build social capital with a wide array of stakeholders, Twitter can help you by amplifying your current efforts.
Engage policymakers regarding issues impacting public education
It’s no secret that public education has been experiencing challenging times, largely due to the unfunded and underfunded mandates placed upon us by policymakers. I’m sure as a Superintendent you have been advocating directly to your state senators and legislators through letters and phone calls. Enter Twitter. Twitter has become a powerful tool for social change all over the world. You can advocate and influence as you directly “mention” your senator, legislator, even the Governor and Secretary of Education directly in your advocacy tweets. (You “mention” someone by simply including the handle in the tweet, for example, @GovernorTomWolf.) As an added bonus, your followers (those students, parents, teachers and community mentioned in #1) will see your tweets and have the opportunity to engage in advocacy as well. To see an example of engaging with policymakers, click here for the recent fair funding Twitter chat with Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera and Secretary of Policy and Planning, John Hanger. Twitter CAN be a powerful tool for the voice of public education to be heard easily and quickly in the halls of the General Assembly and Governor’s office. And it can start with you, the Superintendent!
Connect with professional organizations – PASA, AASA, PSBA, etc.
Twitter isn’t just a place for individuals to have their voice heard. It’s also a place where our professional organizations maintain a presence. As a Superintendent, you can keep up to date on timely news coming out of organizations such as PASA (@PasaSupts), AASA (@AASAHQ) and PSBA (@PSBA). Read a tweet from PASA indicating an important vote coming up in the General Assembly? In a few seconds, you can retweet it out to your followers and craft a new tweet directed toward your legislators and the Governor to advocate on behalf of your district and public education.
Network with other superintendents locally and nationally – #suptchat
Being a Superintendent can sometimes be lonely. It doesn’t have to be that way! Lots of Superintendents are already using Twitter, many participating in a monthly Twitter chat taking place on the first Wednesday of each month, 8:00 PM Eastern Time. On Twitter, search for the hashtag #suptchat and find some Superintendents to follow. Spend just 5-10 minutes a day scanning the #suptchat stream to see what Superintendents are sharing and talking about. Follow individuals who are sharing information interesting to you. The connections that you make can help you as you address problems of practice, and you may even end up meeting new colleagues at conferences that you attend throughout the year.
Model being the lead learner in your organization
You’ve probably heard of PLN – Professional Learning Network. Teachers and Principals are using Twitter and other social media tools to learn from colleagues passionate about education. Think about it… With a technology device, even a simple smartphone, practically the sum of human knowledge is available online. Have a problem, challenge or question? Someone probably has the answer or the information you need to arrive at an answer. With Twitter (the second most frequently used search engine next to Google), you have access to countless experts and many superintendents experiencing the same challenges you are. Need to learn more about what schools are doing with blended learning? You’ll find many experts on Twitter providing resources and engaging in virtual dialogue to help you deepen your understanding. Whatever you need to learn, you can learn it through your connections on Twitter. As the lead learner in your organization, you will uncover the power of connected learning for your administrators, teachers and students and model this huge shift toward personalized learning coming to education.
Build a brand – personal and organizational – #ASuperDay
Building a brand is probably the easiest on-ramp to Twitter for a Superintendent. We all enjoy sharing the successes of our students and teachers. It can be the highlight of our day! As you visit classrooms – tweet out a photo and short description. Tag it with your district hashtag. Use Twitter to share all the great things going on in your district – student honors, innovative teaching and learning, athletic events and the important work of your school board. You might even consider participating in #ASuperDay on the third Wednesday of each month. #ASuperDay was created by Scott Rocco, a Superintendent in New Jersey to capture the day-to-day work of Superintendents. Even something as simple as day-in-the-life-of-a-Superintendent tweets help build your personal and school brand, focusing your constituents on the positive work you and your district staff do for students. Here is a blog post on my first #ASuperDay.
So there you go – six reasons to get started on Twitter. Ready? All you have to do is get set up, find your constituents and learn the lingo. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. More of your time will be needed in the beginning to get set up and understand the tool, but after that, 10-15 minutes spread throughout your day to engage in the ways outlined above should be all that’s required to put you on the path to being a Twitter role model in your district. I’ll cover this in the next blog post.
For what other reasons should Superintendents be using Twitter?
The second part of this series:
- Twitter for Superintendents; The WHAT and HOW