I believe in social media for education. As a school leader, I realize the need to be connected to other educators, to learn from them, to validate what we are doing at Hale Kula, and to continue my professional growth. I am also cognizant of sharing positive news about our students and staff with our school community through Facebook and blogs as well as news articles we send to the local newspaper.
Two weeks ago, after breakfast and prior to leaving for school, I checked my Google+ community and read Eric Sheninger's blog, "The End is Only the Beginning" where he shared that he would be leaving New Milford High School for a position at Scholastic with ICLE. Eric is one of the connected principals I follow on Twitter and Google+ and at the time, I was reading his book, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times on my Nexus tablet. Like others, I posted a comment congratulating Eric on his decision and added, "Too bad you can't do residencies in Hawaii :-)" Imagine my surprise when Eric responded that he was coming to Hawaii. I asked him, "Is it all play and no work?" to which he replied that he might be able to work something out. Well, of course I had to follow up - this was Eric Sheninger, after all - and despite the short time frame, we were able to schedule a presentation with him today. (Note: When I reflect on how we put this together, I am surprised at my audacity in asking him whether he would give up part of his vacation for us.)
I was a bit nervous; I had convinced principals to attend. Some had to rearrange meetings or miss trainings. Others needed a little more prodding; this is the last week before the new school year starts and they weren't sure they wanted to make the time to listen to someone talking about digital leadership. I didn't really know Eric; I just knew of him. What if his message didn't resonate? What if he didn't connect with the audience?
Well, I didn't have to worry. Eric was great! His experiences, his stories, the research, the slides, and the videos all added up to a presentation with so many high points. We especially saw his pride when he shared news stories about his students at New Milford High School who were doing amazing things using technology as a tool to collaborate, communicate, think critically, and create - essential skills for global citizens. I was astounded by a project, "Let's Make Some Good Art" by Sarah, a sophomore student. Her thoughtful insights and reflections were mature for someone so young, and I am tempted to send the link to education policy makers so they can see the possibilities when we trust our students to use mobile learning devices as a tool to share their learnings.
For me, Eric's presentation was validation that we are on the right track at our school. We aren't anywhere near New Milford High School, but we are communicating with our community through social media, and students share their learnings using Web 2.0 tools. We've done coding, participated in the Cardboard Challenge, and have started dabbling in Minecraft where student groups created their own community. We share documents, presentations, etc. using Google Drive, and we have a private Google+ community for our teachers to share resources, photos, ideas, ask questions, and discuss concerns. We know we can do more, though, and that will be one of my personal goals for next school year.
At a recent presentation I attended at ISTE, presenter George Couros shared, "We shouldn't be engaging students; we should be empowering them." That, to me, is what we need to strive for as we become digital leaders in a changing world - empowering our staff and our students to ask, "What if?" or "How can I?" or "Why not?" and then supporting them in their efforts and giving them the confidence to learn from their mistakes.
As a school principal, it is my hope that more of my colleagues will see the value of using social media to communicate and to connect with others as part of a personal learning network. Eric Sheninger has planted the seeds with his presentation today; now it is up to us to support each other so we can grow and flourish as digital school leaders and as a school community. Our students are counting on us.