Communicating with Social Media

This morning, I listened to this George Couros interview on Connected Principals:

George Couros: Connected Principals Should Be ‘Learner Leaders’ from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

In his interview, he touches on the acceptance issues of schools embracing teachnology, specificically social media, in the learning process.  As I feel developing the quitesiential “Community of Learners” also involes clearly and effectively communicating with parents and stakeholders (can you tell I’ve just finished job interview season?), I think getting families on board with the social media/school partnership is essential.

Here are a few lines from Mr. Couros I liked:

On filtering

“A lot of stuff that we don’t do is because of fear [of the Internet]”

“What [filtering does] is actually encourages kids  to use their own device for unfiltered access.”

“When schools block stuff, they also don’t talk about it, and what they’re doing is setting their kids up to do unsafe things either during school hours or after school hours because they don’t know any better because no one is talking about it because they don’t have to.”

On District Digital Identities:

“When I actually looked at what would be a logical hashtag [for the district]…we found that parents and community members were actually creating a digital footprint..a d igital identity for that school district, that was very negative.  So I looked it up, and I saw people that weren’t educators, weren’t able to tell the story of what is actually happening in schools, telling the story of that district…creating a digital identity for that district that is very negative.  We are on the other end of that spectrum where we don’t want that happening.  We encourage debate.  We encourage people being critical of the things we’re doing because we don’t learn anything when everyone agrees with us.  We want them to be engaged in conversation, but we want to be at the table, actively involved in the conversations, instead of outside the restaurant.”


As I’m taking on a new administrative role, where do I go with social media?  Our district has and maintains an information-based website and Twitter account.  The district and middle school also have their own Facebook pages.  We have a lot of great things going on (and hopefully even more, soon!) in the district and elementary building that I’d love to share with our community!

I’ve seen the value of effective social media use in schools.  One great example was when Tecumseh Junior High School Principal Brett Gruetzmacher (@BGruetzmacher) used his building’s Facebook page to keep parents posted about late dismissal of students due to severe weather in the area.  We’re nuts for not having systems like that in place.

Surely, however, there are some downsides and things to be aware of.

What are some lessons learned from other administrators/districts/buildings about using Facebook/Twitter accounts to share information?  What do I need a heads up about?  What conversations need to be held regarding privacy, policy, etc.?


Making the Leap

I’m making the leap.

After six years of wonderful classroom teaching, I’m heading to the other side of the staff meeting table.  Last Thursday, I was board-approved a new elementary principal.  Following a spring of applications, resumes, first and second round interviews, report card-memorizing, demographic internalizing, filling up gas tanks, and spending half of each paycheck taking suits to the local dry cleaners…I’m happy just to have landed the opportunity!  The icing on the cake, however, is how much of a fit I think it’s going to be!  I’m excited to get started!

So where to start?

I’ve met with my [former my new position] new superintendent several times.  It’s going to be a great working relationship, and he has done an outstanding job of documenting and archiving his yearly work.  My kitchen table is covered with an array of his binders, folders, and paperwork.

I’ve met a few staff members already – those in on my interviews and several of the district-level staff.  I’ll meet several more next week.  One of my early charges is the obligatory “Welcome to a Great Year!” letter for the front of the student handbook.  Since it has to get to the printers soon, Siri threw it on my ‘ASAP List’.

But before I begin that, I need to take a deep breath.  The last few weeks have been lightning-fast with little time to just pause and reflect.

I’ve spent several years working on my grad school and licensure stuff…all helping me to define the administrator I want to be.  Now I need to bring it all together.  I asked my fifth graders last year to create “This I Believe” projects, defining and explaining their core values about school, friends, family, and most of all, themselves.  “Go and do likewise,” says the whisper on my right shoulder.

So this afternoon I’ll take my pink lemonade Crystal Light, the iPad, and a blanket, and enjoy some time reflecting and preparing…deciding what really is important to me about my job, who I am, and who I want to be.

Stay tuned.


Professional Organizations Update: I Caved

Last summer, I wrote about “Professional Organizations: Friends or Fees”.  Well, I caved.  During the fall, I took a one-hour graduate class about educational readings.  When the time came to find professional articles to read, I, admidingly, went to my principal and asked for copies of her professional journals.  And before I knew it, I was stretched out on my couch with a stack of ASCD’sEducational Leadership” magazines.

So when the time came to write my letter to Santa, I added “ASCD membership” to the list.  I figured it was easy for the elves to make in the workshop.  Low and behold, I was a good boy, and my girlfriend purchased a membership on my behalf.

February is a fairly edtechy month for me, as it brings Ohio’s eTech Conference.  Even better, my first Educational Leadership magazine (of my own!) is titled “Teaching Screenagers” and focuses on edtech issues!

Okay, so there is some value in professional organizations.  I certainly won’t let it replace my PLN on Twitter, but it definitely makes a lovely compliment to it.

Professional Organizations: Friends or Fees?

During one of those insanely early (probably 10:00AM) classes somewhere around my junior year of college, one of my education professors passed out paper applications for ASCD and explained (Charlie-Brown-teacher-style) the value in preservice teachers belonging to professional organizations.  Sure, she explained the many benefits of a subscription to the organization’s magazine Educational Leadership (as if we all needed a little more late-night reading material), but we all saw through the smoke and acknowledged the fact that “Two-year member of ASCD” would look just dandy on a future resume.

Or would it?

I’d like to look at two points.  1) Does belonging to a professional organization necessarily make a stronger educator?  2) In the age of the Twittersphere, blogs, and wikis, are professional organizations still the tool to use to measure one’s commitment to personal professional (oxymoron?) development?

1)  As I start to think long-term about my professional career (redundant?), I realize that there are a few steps that I need to take now to help me out in the future.  One day, I hope to be sitting across the table from an interview panel for a building principal position.  What happens, then, when the superintendent says, “Ryan, please give us some evidence of your belonging to some education-related professional organizations?”  If the interview was tomorrow, there’d be silence.  I’ll admit it – I don’t belong to any.  Sure, I joined ASCD for a year or so back in college, but the membership renewal probably came and well, being a senior in college…I may or may not have had a few other things on my mind.  Since then, I’ve received a healthy serving of mail and email offers from NCSS, NCTE, NCTM (give me a break, I’m not even licensed in math!), NEA, and of course, my old friends at ASCD.  To each I have politely thought, “If I had the money…,” and relocated it to the recycling bin.

So what if I hadn’t?  What if I re-budgeted the needed registration fees and I said to that superintendent, “I have been an active member of NCSS for four years, NCTE for six years, the NEA for four years, and ASCD for seven years.”  Would the superintendent hand me a contract and say, “Oh, well he’s qualified!”  What exactly does it mean to be a member of a professional organization? Technically speaking, it only means that you have paid the fees and filled out the paperwork.  Typically, one can also assume that the member has received opportunities in her/his inbox for discounted PD and maybe a pretty monthly organization magazine or two in the mail.

One of the buildings in my district recently received an ARRA Title II-D 21st Century Learning Environment Technology Grant (I think that’s the full name?).   One of the many benefits of the grant is the addition of a technology coach to the receiving school’s staff.  In appendix E of the grant specifications, they list both the requirements and desirable qualifications for the technology coach.  Microsoft Word - Round 2 ARRA Title II-D RFP2_16 - Powered by Google DocsOne of the desirable qualifications is for the candidate to have, “Current and past membership in professional organizations (e.g., instructional technology organizations – ASCD, Phi Kappa Gamma, NCTM or OCTM, SECO, OCTELA)….”  Where, in that requirement, is evidence of authentic professional development?

2)  Make no mistake, I get a healthy dose of professional development in the form of readings, dialoge, and exposure to innovation.  Mine even comes daily.  The development of my professional learning network (PLN) using primarily Twitter (Follow me @mrmalany) has increased my exposure to the education world exponentially!  I can get daily, customized online “newspapers” from and filled with up-to-date articles, videos, screencasts, wikis, forums, and podcasts tailored to specific components of the educational community that interest me.   I can participate in (or just monitor) weekly #edchat sessions and am looking forward to upcoming #elemchat sessions starting this Thursday.  Although all of these collaboration networks to free, up-to-date, individualized, and are made up of some of the strongest educators from around the world, they still aren’t held in as high regard as paying annual dues to an “official” professional organization.  Maybe they should be.

Take this away:

My guess is that I am likely to fire up the registration pages of some of the real professional organizations and type in my credit card number sometime in the near future.  When the day comes that I am actually sitting across from a superintendent, I’ll have the answer she or he wants.  And I’m sure I will get some development from these organization.  But to that, I’ll be sure to add my two cents about the unique gains my PLN has given me.  It’s priceless.  And when I’m interviewing teacher candidates for my building: bonus points on the hiring rubric if your resume’s contact info includes an “@”!

Educational Leadership Booklist

My professor for my current Master’s class, Dan Major, a retired middle school principal, shared with us some texts from his professional library.  I respect a list put together by a man who has led decades of educators and students.  I included Amazon links.

Carey, Chris. bookshelf1.jpg. 10/12/1999. Pics4Learning. 20 Jun 2010 <>

Carey, Chris. bookshelf1.jpg. 10/12/1999. Pics4Learning. 20 Jun 2010

The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player by John Maxwell

Attitude 101 by John Maxwell

Relationships 101 by John Maxwell

The Heart of a Leader by Ken Blanchard

Finding Your Leadership Style by Jeffery Glanz

20 Biggest Mistakes Principals Make and How to Avoid Them by Marilyn Grady

What Great Principals Do Differently by Todd Whitaker

Survival Skills for the Principalship by John Blaydes

The Principal as Instructional Leader by Sally Zepeda

The Emerging Principalship by Linda Skria

Leading Learning Communities: Principals Should Know and Be Able To Do by the National Association of Elementary Principals

School Leadership that Works by Robert Marzano

Change Leadership by Tony Wagner (This one was highly recommended!)

10 Traits of Highly Effective Principals by Elaine McEwan-Adkins

So what titles would YOU recommend?

It’s All About Perspective

In my Master’s class a couple weeks ago, we were talking about administrators giving out end-of-the-year surveys/evaluations to teachers to assess the administrator.  The conversation moved to what exactly one should do with the information gained from the survey.  As it’s likely some of the responses are going to be a litte rough (to say the least), it’s important that administrators keep who the writer is in perspective.  That’s when my prof brings out this story:

Bill and Ethel had been married many years.  As they both grew older, Bill began to think Ethel was starting to lose her hearing.  Being the sensitive, loving husband that he was, he wasn’t exactly sure how to appropriately bring the issue up with his dear wife.

One day the couple went to the doctor for their annual phsyicals.  While Ethel was out the the room, Bill asked the doctor how he thinks Bill might bring up the issue with his wife.  The doctor replied, “That’s easy.  The next time she’s in a room with her back to her, come up behind her and say something.  You’ll be able to judge her hearing loss by how close you have to get to her before she hears you.”  Bill liked the idea.

A few weeks later, Bill entered the kitchen while Ethel was preparing dinner at the kitchen sink.  From across the room, Bill spoke with a normal voice, “Ethel, how long till dinner is ready?”  Ethel didn’t reply.  Oh, this is bad, he thought.  He took a step closer to her back and again asked, “When will dinner be ready, honey?”  Again, no reply.  Bill was deeply concerned.  He took another step closer and repeated the question, “When’s supper ready?”  Still nothing.  Gravely saddened about the state of her hearing, he stood right behind Ethel and gave it one last effort.  “When’s dinner going to be ready?”  Ethel turned sternly and yelled, “IN FIVE MINUTES, FOR THE FOURTH DAMN TIME!”

Perpective.  It’s an important factor to keep in mind in the classroom, behind the principals desk, and probably across every aspect of our lives.