Bringing Social Media into the Classroom…If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

A recent poll by reveals “1 in 4 students say they access in the daily”  but “…most U.S. and German say they never access social media in the classroom.”

Some other key takeaways from the Dell study:

  • 88% agree technology helps prepare students for the jobs of the future
  • More than 8 in 10 agree that technology makes learning easier.
  • 71% say students have access to more advanced technology at home than they do at school.
  • 83% of respondents globally believe technology gives students a more experience.
  • 71% of respondents believe that learning outside of the classroom and beyond the school year is important.

So here is the $64,000 question:  Does social media belong in the classroom?  I would say…Yes with some caveats.  I am certainly not suggesting we enable Facbook, and for everyone in the classroom so that .  I am suggesting we look for ways to incorporate social technologies to:

  • Foster better communications between parents, teachers and students
  • Engage with students who are are already using some sort of
  • Share information to drive improved learning for all students.

Social media is not just a mechanism to share updates with friends or post the latest funny cat video.  The world of social technology -  blogs, podcasts, tags, file swapping, wikis etc.. – can change the way our students learn if educators are able to embrace it.

Here are some examples:

  • Blogs -  What if students were to write their reports or essays as blog entries?  Students would think:  ”Hey, this is not just some paper that my teacher will throw away.  My friends, family and others will see it.”  What if teachers used blogs to communicate what is going on in the classroom versus sending that email or piece of paper home?  Parents could subscribe to the blog avoiding the emails and paper which eventually end up in the trash.  Some safe, FREE tools:   ; 
  • Collaboration – Like it or not, we live in a global interconnected world.  Schools need to educate our children on how to collaborate.  What if was conducted via social technology where all files, discussions, and results were managed?   Think about the discussions this could foster and that information would be available online…potentially forever.  FREE tool
  • Podcasts -  What if students could publish a report as a podcast?  Some students just thrive by communicating orally or verbally….their report would be available to all…

These are some ideas about how to incorporate social technology.  Let’s face it, the internet is not going away and social technologies are here to stay.  To prepare students for lifelong success, we need to enable them with not just the knowledge to succeed but we also must provide them with the skills to use today’s tools to succeed in an increasingly competitive, interconnected world.

Do parents REALLY care about their kids’ education?

Got your attention?  Good!  Based on my own circle of friends and friends of friends, I believe the overwhelming majority of parents DO care about their childrens’ education.  I do believe, however, that most parents do not know how to influence the policy direction or the operational procedures in their .  In this post, I want to discuss how parents can influence schools to help prepare our children for life after they graduate.

Get Involved:

There are various levels of involvement.  Some choose to run for school committee.  Talk to the committee members. Others choose to get involved with the .  Attend a school committee and/or a meeting to voice your opinions.  Some parents volunteer in the schools.  These are all excellent ways to help our children.

For those of us that are too busy to get actively involved, I recommend sending an email.  An email provides a quick, fool proof way to guarantee your message is received.  I recommend  the following guidelines when emailing:

  • Highlight the issue, question or problem without emotion.  State the facts and just the facts.  I know this is tough.  After all these are our children!
  • Attack the problem not the person.  Do not write anything in the email you would not say to the person directly or want posted in the newspaper.
  • Offer a suggestion or solution. Do not be part of the problem.
  • Use a capability.  This will allow you to know when your email is opened.     To see how visit one of these links (, ).  You can also politely request a response by a certain date.  Do not be afraid to forward your original email if you do not get a response

To whom do I send communications

  • Email a school committee member.  They are all and have public ().  Remember the role of the school committee before you launch this email.  (Note: In the 9 months as a school committee member I have received 5 emails with questions or suggestions!)
  • Email teachers or principals:  Teachers are on the front line and care deeply about  your children.  Contact your principal if something is just not working in your schools (e.g. lunch menus are not posted on time).  Escalate to your principal if you feel you are not making headway with the teacher.
  • Email the superintendent:  This is the CEO of the district who can make things happen district wide.  If you have concerns about policy implementation, this is a great place to start.  (e.g. wellness policies – allergies etc..)
  • Email elected officials: Whether it is the mayor, board of selectmen, alder men etc..These people need to hear your concerns, wants or desires for education in your district.

For those of you with time:

  • Attend school committee meetings:  I have noticed that my town’s school committee frequently addresses an empty room. It would be more beneficial to have parents in the room to receive feedback.
  • Attend board of selectmen meetings:  Same as above.  This group has a major impact (in many but not all districts) on what school districts can and cannot accomplish.
  • Volunteer:  Reach out to your principal if you have something to offer.  My company provides .  Ask your company if they do something similar.

All in all, I do believe parents care.  Many do not know how to get involved.  Some just plain  do not have the time.  I hope these suggestions help identify a few ways to get engaged.

 

Initial views of the Town of Lunenburg budget…and 5 year forecast

 

I had a dream the other night.  I attended the Lunenburg meeting to listen to the 5 year forecast.  It was one of the better meetings I had attended in quite a while.  During the meeting, our delivered the 5 year forecast which showed a surplus for every year over the next 5 years.   The audience erupted in applause and thanked the town manager for the excellent news….As I woke up in a cold sweat, I realized that this had just been a dream.

 

We unfortunately find ourselves in a situation where we are in a likely budget shortfall.  How is this going to impact the Lunenburg Public Schools?  Notice…I did not ask IF !  This is definitely going to impact our budget.

 

Ok now parents!  LISTEN UP!  I AM GOING TO NEED YOU TO GET VOCAL ABOUT THE USAGE OF THE TOWN BUDGET!  THIS IS PUBLIC INFORMATION PLEASE READ AND BE READY TO SHARE YOUR CONCERNS, COMMENTS OR SUGGESTIONS WITH THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN.  PLEASE MAKE AN ATTEMPT TO ATTEND A BoS MEETING TO SHARE YOUR OPINION.

 

Watch this space for more thoughts.

 

Lunenburg Public Schools to embrace social media for community engagement

Last night the Lunenburg School Committee held a workshop to discuss how to better engage the .  This comes after a discussion about some of the challenges the District has had in consistently communicating with the community.  There is a recognition by the entire committee that the District has done some things well but also, that there is major areas for improvement.

In our discussion last night we identified several areas for improvement:

  • Preference based communications:  If the school were a private company, I would  describe our communication approach as “spray and pray’. The schools send emails, voice mails, paper forms, paper news letters, have a website,  and use verbal communication to try to reach their key target audience.  The District does not currently provide parents a mechanism to select their preferred communication channel.  In today’s era of the empowered consumer, who has access to unprecedented amounts of data to make informed decisions, must embrace a communication approach which addresses an audience of one.
  • :   We are behind the times when it comes to embracing social media.    Districts around us and across are using , , ,  and other social channels to engage communities.   Like the in ’04…why not us?  Well, we will be dipping our toes in the water over the next couple of months…stay tuned.
  • Website:  There was discussion around improving the overall customer experience with the District and school specific websites.  Several community members expressed frustration with the inconsistency across the websites stating that it can be difficult to quickly find information they need.  There are a couple of approaches we can likely recommend here:  design guidelines and policies for lay out, content management processes to ensure information is up to date.
  • Single view of the student:  Currently there are several locations parents can go to see student information and monitor progress:  Power School, school note, sneaker net (aka information sent home in backpacks).  There is a desire have a ““.  This would be one location where parents can view ALL information pertinent to their children’s world at school.  The good news is that Lunenburg owns the software to make this happen!  We need to explore how to increase adoption of the Power School solution to take advantage of all the capabilities the solution offers.

Their are some long hanging fruit here and some longer term items which will need to be addressed over time.  The most important thing Lunenburg residents need to understand: the schools want to engage the entire community.  The and Lunenburg Public Schools need residents’ help and support to make this a reality.

What is the role of the school committee?

Now, isn’t that an interesting question?  What does a  do?

Before you read on, do you actually know a school committee’s responsibilities?

Since being elected to the Lunenburg School Committee, I have been asked a lot of questions which some residents expect I can answer right there and then!

I have received questions about:

  • Staffing in the schools
  • schedules and menus
  • Bus routes including lengths and timing
  • Drop off and pick up times for each of the schools
  • Budget allocations
  • Teacher contracts

So, I began to ask myself:  ”Am I really responsible for knowing all of this as a school committee member?”  As I began to educate myself and ask others their ideas about the school committee’s role, I found a wide variety of opinions and ideas.  I turned to The  for guidance. This organization has defined the following areas of responsibility: Policy, Finance, Staffing, Collective bargaining, Performance Standards, Professional development, School Councils, Advocacy, Curriculum, Governance, and Communication

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees defines the roles and responsibilities in their “Charting the Course” offering:

Policy:  The school committee establishes and periodically reviews educational goals and policies for the schools in the district. consistent with the requirements of law and the statewide goals and standards.  This is the primary role of the school committee.

Finance:   The school committee reviews and approves a budget for education in the district according to a process and timeline developed with the superintendent; works to ensure that necessary funds are appropriated for the district. oversees the operation of the annual school budget.

Staffing: Appoints the superintendent; Hires legal counsel. Sets compensation for the superintendent. Prescribes additional qualifications for educator positions beyond basic certification.; Disciplines or terminates employment of the superintendent in accordance with the terms of the contract of employment.

Collective Bargaining:  Acts as employer of the school employees for collective bargaining; designates negotiator or negotiating team and receives advice about educational consequences of bargaining positions.

Performance Standards: Establishesupon the recommendation of the superintendent, the performance standards for teachers and other employees of the ; evaluates the performance of the superintendent; conducts self-evaluation of the committee’s effectiveness in meeting its stated goals and performing its role in public school governance

Professional Development:  Adopts a professional development plan for all principals, teachers and other professional staff;  provides and encourages resources for school committee professional development programs.

School Councils: Reviews and approves an annual school improvement plan for each school in the district; provides and encourages resources for school council professional development programs.

Advocacy: Engages in advocacy on behalf of students and their schools; works closely with other governmental agencies and bodies.

Curriculum: Approves major adoption or revision of curriculum and textbooks upon recommendation of the superintendent.

Governance: Establishes educational goals and policies for schools in the district; delegates to the superintendent the responsibilities for all administrative functions; acts only as a body as prescribed by law and not as individual members.

Communication: Supports the development and promotion of vision, mission, goals and strategies of the school system; consults and confers with the superintendent of on all matters as they arise that concern the school system and on which the school committee may take action; Maintains open communication between community and the schools by scheduling public meetings on a regular basis; supports the superintendent in all matters that conform to committee policy.

So there you have it.  In a nutshell that is it……Pretty daunting scope.

I am starting this blog because I believe it is very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I am hoping the conversation generated on my blog will be helpful to me in learning community views on many issues.. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

The commentary here reflects entirely my own  views about policies and discussions occurring at  Lunenburg School Committee Meetings — it does  not represent the view of the Committees, District, or the Superintendent.