Will Administrators Use Social Media in the Future?

Today’s CEO is not social, says Forrester Research’s CEO George Colony–in a study reported today on the Mashable site. I pulled one of the quotes that made me think about administrators in our schools:

Colony has concluded that, “None of the CEOs of Fortune Magazine’s top 100 global corporations have a social profile.”

Wow. None. But should we be surprised? Very few school principals, Heads of Schools, or even high-level administrators have a social profile. George Couros, whose fairly recent jump into social media has propelled him as a leader in this area, started Connected Principals to share those that do. But until the past few months, I saw few administrators willing to take the perceived risk of being “out there.”

I find social media fascinating. I can’t imagine not sharing and learning online. But it seems people either get it or don’t.

Educators are no different in that regard. But those administrators who have jumped report great satisfaction in their transparency with parents and families. Check out Larry Fliegelman’s latest post about connecting with his parents. Josie Holford, head of Poughkeepsie Day School, keeps her families up to date through her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

So as I read the post on Mashable, I wondered….how different will our “school world” be when administrators around the world will feel as LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman does. In the post he says,  “perceptions around social media being too risky for CEOs are beginning to change.”

“I would predict that more and more executives will see this as an opportunity rather than a risk,” he says.

I hope more school administrators will soon discover the possibilities.

image:By Pranav SinghPranav Singh

You have to use it to believe

Zotero is one of those applications I've had on my computer for, oh at least a year. Occasionally, I would pull it up and save something, but then I'd forget to go back to it. I tend to use my diigo/delicious combo for saving and annotating websites, and I hadn't done much research lately (one of Zotero's strengths since it pulls bibliographic info easily).
This morning, I noticed an audio file in my Reader, so I clicked the play button. Suddenly, I realized I wanted to take notes. This was a conversation from the ELI 2009 Annual Meeting, and several folks were discussing how to get their faculty involved in using emerging technologies.
My brain started spinning: open a Google Doc? Word? a post it? Ah, Zotero! And before the second speaker had started, I had a note open, and I was typing away as I listened.
Gmail - Inbox (4512) - susancartermorgan@gmail.com
You can see I have several documents (listed on the left) that are in a folder I've created for things I use when I need to present to faculty. On the right, a note I was using to write points I was hearing on the audio file. The note is then a subset of the original audio file in the larger folder.
Neat. Organized. Quick.
Zotero to the rescue. I have a feeling this will be very useful.
Sigh, why did it take me so long?

Too much, too soon?

In my switch from Instructional Tech Coordinator to English teacher this year, I've been riding waves of emotions. I looked forward to the chance to have my own class, to use our 1:1 program fully, integrating technology into my program;  I also realized this established curriculum meant following a set plan in terms of assigned books and assessments.
Yet, one of the missing links in our  1:1 program over the last few years has been helping students understand how to use various tools to learn. Teachers don't often have the time to teach and support, and this seemed a good opportunity to take the time, even if I had to squeeze some of the content.
As I look back now, I am glad I exposed the students to various tools, but I realize I often did too much, too quickly– with a sense of urgency that I would only have these ninth-graders for one year.
 In a recent survey of students, we heard that they are often frustrated by being assigned too many places to go online, having to remember too many passwords, and having to learn too many new applications in addition to the content of the course. Some students, especially those who have gone through nine or ten years of traditional classroom instruction don't want to learn with technology. Many see technology as a burden, an add-on. But even those who enjoy learning this way find too many applications frustrating, especially if they haven't set up their laptops for efficient access with Firefox toolbars, widgets, etc.
And it's not that I don't value their opinions. I do. But being an early adopter means having to try things out. Since I wasn't sure what blogging platform to use, we started with 21 Classes. However, by semester's end, we had moved to our own WPMU platform (with the help of Jim Groom from UMW).
I know how valuable Twitter is to me, but I didn't want them "out there" quite yet. So we tried a private  Yammer for a few weeks.
Then, when I wanted to teach online bookmarking, diigo was beginning a new educational version. Being one of the first edu accounts was exciting, but they hadn't quite worked out the bugs for those of us who had personal accounts. It's been a trying year, since I've ended up with two identical class accounts, password glitches, and lost bookmarks. Not diigo's fault, but frustrating for me to manage and straighten out. We still haven't decided whether delicious might be the better option–less functionality but simpler. At least two teachers have started their classes in that direction, so now we need to make a decision.
Though I had set up a ning account for my students in the fall, I didn't feel they should handle ONE more thing. But when the ninth-grade biology teacher set one up for them, it turned out to be the perfect way to organize the class. They preferred it much more than the wiki I'd set up (which was one more login and password they needed!) Upper class students also prefer the nings, but recognize that doing one in every class might get old.
We Wordled, wikid, blogged, and recorded as we read, discussed and wrote various genres of literature.
I know this is a process of learning what works well and what doesn't–for the students and teachers. But in some ways, I wish I'd been handed a plan so we could have organized this in a logical, less frustrating way for the students. Then again, something new will be developed next fall, and it might be the perfect tool. So learning to learn is a good thing.
My students do seem more comfortable with this self-directed learning, and the tools, for most of them, are becoming a valuable way to collaborate. Our goal is to create classes where students feel empowered to share their ideas, learn in ways that help them, and ultimately produce and create for a wider audience than the teacher.
They now blog and comment on each others work, learn when visitors respond to their writing, and feel at ease looking up information on the spot when there's a question in class. In history, science, and foreign languages, they've created wonderful visuals (videos, charts, graphics) to showcase what they know (I wish I had links to some of the movies). And the nings have been powerful ways to let them contribute to their classes by uploading videos, images, and other sites/research.
Though I now spend hours reading the blogs and commenting myself, it's far easier than collecting notebooks (so I do more of it). Checking their annotations in diigo takes time, but I can see where they are headed on their papers, and they can see what others have collected.
And truthfully, I WANT to read what they have to say. They are fascinating, fun teenagers who write with voice and style!
When I do my own end-of-the-year survey, I hope they feel that on balance, the frustration has been worth it. I know I do.


Sometimes you just have to play

With so many online options for writing, publishing, and archiving, it’s difficult to know which tool to use. Don’t you sometimes feel you just flit from one tool to another?
But sometimes you have to play.
This morning, based on a post by Michele Martin over at The Bamboo Project, I tried (again) Zoho Office. I like it!
Here a sample of the Notebook, which I might use with my class. I like the way it organizes and embeds everything from websites to videos.
I’ve been singing Google’s praises for some time, but I think I could be talked into switching.
Ah, she’s so fickle.