Tweeting For Schools

Awhile ago, I wrote a post entitled, “What Should A Networked Educational Leader Tweet About?“, which was meant to be a guide to administrators new to Twitter on tweeting and sharing information using this social media tool.  It is something that I am hoping all educators can use, but I obviously think that administrators should really understand the important use of social media in schools.

As our own school division and schools all over the world are starting to use organizational Twitter accounts to connect, I wanted to write a post on how a school or educational institution can use Twitter effectively.  It is a great way to connect with students, as well as share their message locally and globally.

Here are some ideas to start you with the process:

  1. School Announcements– This is probably the way Twitter is used most often with school accounts but sometimes it is the only way.  Social media is a great way to connect so schools should really go past using this as just a way to tell that their is a dance coming up or school is canceled.  With that being said, people are able to actually subscribe to Twitter updates without being on Twitter that will go straight to their phone.  To do this, follow the instructions below for any Twitter account using your mobile device:

    “By way of SMS on any phone in the United States (this works in Canada as well), you can get alerts from anyone on Twitter. This is true even if you don’t have a Twitter account. All you have to do is text “follow TWITTERNAME” (use the ‘@’ sign as in ‘@gcouros’) to Twitter’s shortcode, 40404, and you will start getting realtime updates. ” Tech Crunch

  2. Celebrations of Success – Often school are using Twitter to congratulate and commend their teachers, students, and school communities in an open way to share in their success.  This is a good way to share publicly the accomplishments of individuals or groups in the school, but I would strongly suggest that you are cautious before you mention names, as well as ask permission from any individuals that you are tweeting about to ensure that they are comfortable with this.
  3. Sharing classroom/school information – Often when we tweet within Parkland School Division, we share blog posts or links from articles that have to do with schools within the division. This is a great way to share what is happening in our schools not only with the public, but other schools in our division as well.  School accounts can also share blog posts from different classroom teachers which helps to build connections across the school community.  When I was principal at Forest Green, we would often have parents from different classrooms commenting on blogs that were not specifically from their child’s teacher.  This is a great way for parents to connect with teachers before and after their child attends their class and helps to build a strong learning community.To easily set up tweets to classroom blogs within your school, you can use a free service such as TwitterFeed to automatically post tweets on your account’s behalf from blogs that you subscribe to.  Before you do this though, make sure that you are comfortable with the blogs that you subscribe to.  I trusted the teachers in my school (obviously) that I was never worried about them writing objectionable content, but I would not automatically tweet something from Seth Godin’s blog as I am not sure his content would always be deemed appropriate to a K-6 audience.
  4. Answering questions and connecting with students/stakeholders – If you are going to have a Twitter account for your school, it is important that someone is monitoring it for mentions to ensure that you are answering those that are perhaps asking for more information.  Nothing is more annoying then an organization with a Twitter account that does not respond to its customers, so the same would apply to a school or organization.  Depending on the number of followers it may be hard to respond every time your Twitter handle is mentioned, but my rule of thumb would be to look for question marks in your “mentions” and ensure that you are answering questions. A great book on this topic specifically is “Open Leadership” by Charlene Li.   It focuses mostly on business practice, but a lot of the information can be applied to educational institutions as well.
  5. Sharing of Educational Articles – If you are not sharing some of the great articles from around the world that educators are blogging and writing about, you are missing a golden opportunity to help educate and spark discussion with your school community.  If we are to share every good article that we read on the Internet in a traditional newsletter it would be too much, but through Twitter, we are able to share quick links and others are able to pick and choose what they choose to read.  Marc Prensky says the following:“Involve your students’ parents as much as you can. Try thinking of them as your students as well, that is, as people you are educating.”I would consider parents more “partners” in education and not students, but I do believe in the importance of sharing information and research with not only parents, but students and teachers as well.  Do not expect every article you share to be read by everyone but it is essential that we share as much as possible with our learning communities.

With the information above, it is important that you do not take this lightly.  If you are not able to regularly update your twitter account or answer questions from those that address you, it may actually look worse then not having an account at all.  I also believe it is important to have an organizational account as opposed to a personal account that simply tweets on behalf of the school.  This way, if a group of followers becomes dependent upon a single person for the tweets of the organization and they leave the organization, you are left creating a new following to keep people updated about school events.  Organizational accounts can be run by multiple people and easily transferred to others.

I’m hoping the information shared here will help schools get started on their Twitter accounts as there are huge benefits to connecting with your school community through this medium.  If you can think of any other great ways to use a school Twitter account, I would appreciate you shareing them in the comments and I can update the post to help others.  I will be following up this article in the near future on the effective use of hashtags for schools that will help to not only share information, but will help brand your organization as well.

Admittedly, there is a lot of work I would like to continue on with in our organization, but I believe in the importance of open and transparent learning;  this is just another area to help push our schools forward.

UPDATE: Here is a great article that I found from Steven Anderson on some of the logistics of setting up a Twitter account for your school.

Twitter in Schools – A Getting Started Guide

If you want to look at some school/school division twitter feeds check out the following:

24 thoughts on “Tweeting For Schools

  1. Claudia Amendola

    This is great! There is a particular school in my board that I call my "basecamp" because I practically work there with all the time spent volunteering and supplying, I'm close with the teachers and I'm close with the principal. I'm going to share this link with ones who I think might take to your ideas with open arms! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Kevin

    The smartest thing we did was connect our school Facebook to the school Twitter account. Each update on Facebook automatically tweets. Huge timesaver. Thanks for the article.

  3. lhighfill

    Thanks for your great post. My tweeting 5th graders have had amazing success with their endeavors. We have found a ship drilling undersea volcanoes, an author found us as we tweeted our thinking about the book she wrote, and other students have started collaborating with us on projects that we have tweeted about. I believe the most beneficial piece to tweeting what we are doing in class has been the PR benefits. I started this because I was frustrated with others, outside of education, telling the world what was going on in my classroom, especially since it didn't reflect the truth. We want to expand our reach to help educate others outside of our school as to what 21st century learning looks like. We have gotten the attention of our city Mayor, the @itmshow, and even our state superintendent of schools. It's not that what we are doing is so spectacular, but its provides a fly on the wall perspective- told from the mouths of the kids. Follow us @highfillcrew to see what I mean!

  4. Mrs. Howell

    I plan on using twitter in my classroom next week. My class will be acting as the three branches of government and will make a "law." Since this will be a student run project that I oversee I will be able to tweet updates on the discussions and movement of the "law" from house,senate, to president, even as I challenge it all the way to the supreme court. I think it will be a fun way for parents to keep up with their child's education! I am so excited.

  5. Bill Selak

    Perfect timing! I'm presenting on Twitter as a teacher tomorrow. I'm focusing on using it for PD; this post is a great resource for those that also want to tweet in their classroom.

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  7. jrnorwood

    Thanks for the information! I just created a Twitter account for my school (@BadgerSpringsMS) after I went through a parent engagement workshop. I love the ideas here and will add them to my own!

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  16. Maureen Devlin

    George, Have you ever posted on an overall system-wide structure for social media and how it all interacts for efficient, streamlined communication, apt protocols and best effect. That's something I'm wondering about as more and more people at all levels of the school system embrace social media as a communication tool.

  17. Kathleen Diver

    I feel so fortunate that our principal does almost all of these. She shares events, and classroom visits. She posts positive articles to read from resources. The school webpage has a twitter feed that is updated several times per day, maybe even more (slower in the summer). She retweets things that we send her as well.

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