TECH LEADERSHIP

Using Twitter Productively

By Luvelle Brown/School Administrator, October 2015


It’s essential for today’s school leaders to facilitate learning conversations using technology tools. These conversations can easily drift to the latest gadget or invention instead of the anticipated instructional outcome, but a few simple tips can help educators and administrators use Twitter to achieve educational benefits.


SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND SPECIAL EVENTS.

Now more than ever, it is important for educators to share impressive examples of outstanding teaching and learning occurring regularly. In the face of fiscal challenges, external competition and new standards facing contemporary classrooms, school stakeholders are seeking depictions of day-to-day happenings. Twitter is a free, efficient and effective way to communicate with a large number of parents, educators, voters, taxpayers and politicians.

Our 6,000-student school district’s Twitter account (@ithacaNYschools) is run by our communications department and has more than 2,300 followers. I also use my own Twitter account, with more than 2,200 followers, for both personal and professional engagement. It’s important for my followers in the district to get a complete picture of their superintendent, to see my dedication to my family and community as well as to the success of the schools.


CONNECT WITH AND LEARN FROM OTHER PROFESSIONALS AND STUDENTS.

School districts nationwide have been striving to provide young people with anywhere, anytime access to information and learning. The ensuing one-to-one mobile device initiatives not only have increased access to information but also have led to pedagogical enhancements and achievement gains. Adults in the school community also have access to new technological devices and can benefit as much, if not more, than students.

Valuable virtual connections between educators often begin with a retweet or a favorite of an interesting resource or tip. These simple acts can lead to the formation of virtual professional learning networks and chat sessions extending beyond a district’s borders. The widely followed hashtags #edtech and #edtechchat have expanded learning conversations around the globe.

Educators also can turn to their digital-native students for assistance with using apps on mobile devices in the classroom. By engaging with students on Twitter, we can discover what and how they are learning. When students know that a school or district’s Twitter account is being monitored and that a simple tweet can spark a two-way conversation, they are more likely to engage with educators.


ENCOURAGE A SHIFT IN CULTURE.

It’s hard to believe that statements containing 140 or fewer characters can stimulate culture-shifting thinking and conversations, but tweets have sparked collaboration and positive change throughout our district.

Twitter and other social networking tools can enhance the traditional strategic planning process by increasing school and community engagement in ongoing conversations about our continuous improvement efforts.

Using specific hashtags to identify threads, educators can spark discussions about learning. The Baltimore County, Md., Public Schools use the hashtag #TeamBCPS so internal stakeholders can follow the conversation about the use of new instructional practices and new ways to meet student needs.

This contemporary approach to strategic planning and continuous improvement is on display in my district, which envisions “6,000-plus thinkers.” As a community, we have a common understanding that thinking is at the core of new discoveries, solutions for complex problems and creativity. I’ve used Twitter to share examples, ask questions and stimulate conversations to build a common mental model for goals, priorities and metrics. Additionally, I co-authored a book in 2014, #ThinkTweets: 100 Transformative Tweets for Educators, that contains inspirational quotes encouraging leaders to consider how to use technology to change education for the better.

Share, connect, reflect, learn and think using Twitter. It’s a social networking tool that can be a vital part of your self-directed professional development, continuous improvement and overall learning efforts.
 

Luvelle Brown is superintendent of the Ithaca City School District in Ithaca, N.Y. E-mail: luvelle.brown@icsd.k12.ny.us. Twitter: @luvelleb