Educational Leadership and social media

I first started using social media in 1997 when I was part of an online community which provided great support to me when I was engaged in a school transformation process.

Since that time I’ve continued to use social media networks, more particularly a blog as a secondary school head teacher, a learning log as head education and then director, and most recently a twitter account.

I think I’ve only come to realise how important such engagement is to me in my leadership role in the last few months.

Last year I decided to take time out from social media. So from the 10th May 2010 – 10th May 2011 I didn’t write or post to my own or any other network.

My reasons for stopping included the fact that a number of my colleagues in schools didn’t appreciate the manner in which I explored ideas in public without having first shared the ideas with them. Out of respect for them and to see how it might affect my work I decided to take the year out.

So what did I find out?

Perhaps the most surprising consequence was that I found my day to day work to be much harder and all consuming – I hesitate to use the word stressful. Looking back I think it was because my mind was completely drawn into operational matters.

The other element which was missing was the opportunity to reflect upon my work – to be able to try to make sense of my world and to be able to share and check that meaning out with others.

Another simple difference was the opportunity to learn from others. This has recently become even more apparent as twitter has opened up a completely new world of links and perspectives on the world of education.

On reflection my year out was a year without learning. I did my job, I solved problems, I led the service, but I didn’t learn – and without learning we are not professionals.

So at a recent meeting with colleagues I made it clear that I was going to recommence my learning log and redefined my reasons for doing so, which are to:

– scan the educational and children’s services horizon;
– research and examine international policy and practice;
– generate, explore and develop ideas for school and service improvement;
– collect and manage knowledge relevant to service development;
– consider how we can better integrate education and services to support children and young people from pre-birth to 18;
– engage in a transparent and accessible manner with colleagues and service users;
– promote and model the leadership behaviours and values  of our service; and
– take time to critically reflect upon issues of topical interest.

The underlying question which remains for me is if such a discipline can make such a difference to me, in my role as an educational leader, then how might it benefit colleagues in similar roles – and I would include teachers in this?

Of course, the normal response to such a query comes in one (or more)of three forms:

A) I don’t have time
B) I’m not into technology
c) I don’t see the point

The bottom line here is that the decision must always lie with the individual but ironically one of the safety valves that could make a difference to an over-worked and stressed profession is to begin to develop a routine which includes a moment of public reflection.

I’ll leave the last words to a paraphrase from John Dewey, which I use as my strap line for this learning log:

“we learn from our experience…..if we reflect upon our experience.”

1 thought on “Educational Leadership and social media

  1. Some good points well made. I do find some colleagues are afraid of using social media for a few reasons.

    The first is they are unsure of what it does or why they need it. My mum was the same u til she realised a Facebook account allowed her access to all ten grandchildren including the 3 that don’t livei the same city as her. Now it is made, she has confidence and is commenting on things, her house (the same one I grew up in) has wifi, she has a “spare” laptop and is now getting involved in on line learning etc too. I believethe amstrad 64k (green screen) is still in the loft. I would love to fire it up and see if it works!

    The next is a real issue, kids accessing the web mean there are several pupils who think it is ok to friends request a teacher. It is just as fine to ignore the friends request and explain the reasons to the child. We are therefore doing a wider service in explaining real world values in the classroom. Would you want customers checking your personal Facebook? This is one reason I wanted to start up the department twitter account.

    No two geeks or even competent IT users use social media or the net inthe same way. Why would we? We are individuals. I have trained many nervous staff and they feel their lack of skills mean they are unable to get involved. Ironically, this user set would be a great group to work together on twitter or a Facebook page. Perhaps that is a group we need to create in EL, with a really explicit guide to joining it and using it?

    I have discovered the teen world of passive and active twittering. I don’t know why I was surprised but all my class in the trial check the twitter feed religiously but they will never tweet to it. It seems Maths tweets that their friends will read are a step too far. Still, we all have twitter feeds we read but don’t ever tweet to.

    Asked for feedback on the project, I was told to tweet more often as there is not enough to read. I am now checking new articles and tweeting them on @rosshighmaths for the kids to read, this also ticks the “more real world stuff please” request I also got from them.

    You are right, this whole process takes seconds once the initially time is invested and it helps reflecting. In the case of this twitter trial, I find myself reflecting with the kids. Putting the child at the centre of their own learning without them realising? Perfect!

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