Executive Perspective                                     Page 51


Telling Our Stories Through

Social Media



 Daniel Domenech

Rumor has it the Obama presidential campaign was so well wired that in Alexandria, Va., where AASA is headquartered, calls were made to turn out the vote, not to the residents of Alexandria themselves, but to their parents and other influential friends and relatives who then called the Alexandria natives urging them to get out and vote.

Further, it is said the campaign knew if a certain percentage of the Alexandria vote went to Obama, it would be a predictor for winning the state of Virginia. The predictive data gleaned from the social media networking were nurtured by the Obama campaign’s tech team.

Whether truth or folklore, the stories point to significant changes wrought upon political campaigns by technology in general and social media in particular.

Nicco’s Playbook
At AASA’s National Conference on Education this month in Nashville, Tenn., Nicco Mele will talk about the evolution of social media in politics. He is the author of The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath. I first heard Mele speak at an AASA event several years ago where he described himself as a techno-nerd who volunteered to work on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign and developed the use of technology and social media for political fundraising.

Dean never would have achieved front-runner status in that campaign without raising the millions in contributions that came through his web page. Obama’s ability to raise millions of dollars through small contributions on his campaign web page is a well-known fact.

Mele relates how social media has created a direct link between people and politicians, building online communities that give people a voice. This is the power that allows a David to turn into a Goliath. It has enabled the tea party to turn into a formidable political force, and it was a contributing factor in allowing an upstart U.S. senator from Illinois to topple the favored candidate and win the Democratic nomination for president.

Nowadays, educators feel much like David facing the Goliath of corporate interests and well-funded foundations and political action committees that bankroll the election of candidates who support their version of education reform. As I travel nationwide, I can sense the frustration among members. They want to fight back, but they feel outgunned. Perhaps it is time to borrow a page from Nicco Mele’s playbook and use social media to turn the tide.

Gallup polls suggest parents of our schoolchildren are our biggest supporters. Every year, while only 18 percent of the public gives schools a good grade, more than 70 percent of parents with children in school give the schools a good grade. We know our public schools are performing at the highest levels ever on all benchmarks of accountability. We know poverty is the biggest factor affecting student achievement. We know most communities are proud of their schools, supportive of their teachers and proud of the accomplishments of their kids. Yet we rarely see this portrayed in the media.

Crediting Schools
I was the superintendent in Fairfax County, Va., and I still live in that community. With admitted bias, I think we have one of the finest high schools in the country in Thomas Jefferson High School. Recently, the students at Jefferson actually built and put a satellite into orbit! We are talking about high school kids here. Was this story told in the headlines in any newspaper?

I know great things are happening in schools throughout America. I know most children are involved in their communities, helping the elderly and families in need.

I know we continue to turn out world leaders in business and every other field. We cannot claim to be a world power and give no credit to our schools.

It is time we put the power of social media to work for us. It needs to be a grassroots effort with district residents and school staff using Twitter to tout the good things occurring in their schools, posting stories and pictures on Facebook, filling blogs with the wonderful stories we know are happening every day. Superintendents can take the lead by encouraging their parents and staff to post a good story daily. The tsunami of good news will swamp the media’s bad news, and as a nation we will all be better for it.

Daniel Domenech is AASA executive director. E-mail: ddomenech@aasa.org. Twitter: @AASADan


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