On December 2, 2015 I had the privilege to speak to 45 superintendents and central office administrators on the topic of being The Connected Superintendent. We covered a lot of ground and I demonstrated a ton of apps and extensions in our three hour session. Below are some of the key points from the presentation.
Many will ask why superintendents should be connected through social media and use educational technology (EdTech). Well the answer is not that complex. We are experiencing a generational issue in education and around the world. Today’s Gen X and Millennial parents want information at their fingertips, which means on their phones, and our Generation C students are the connected generation who use a smart phone, tablet, laptop or other electronic device like we used pencils in school. But all this contentedness has resulted in a melding of generations which has produced what I term the NOW Generation.
I’ve explored this concept in a blog post called Is Social Media Creating the NOW Generation? The bottom line is figuring out how today’s superintendents address this change in society. The answer is to become a connected superintendent.
Just as important as it is to be a connected superintendent it is also important to establish rules for being connected. My four basic rules for being a connected superintendent and the use of EdTech are:
- It must have the potential to improve student learning
- It must have the potential to improve instruction
- It must make us better educators
- It must make us more efficient in our educational responsibilities
But the commitment to being connected and playing by the above rules will create a host of issues for those contemplating connecting and integrating EdTech into their practice. These include:
- Time – yes, everyone says they don’t have enough time. I know I could use more of it. But go to #3 and #4 above for my answer.
- Confidentiality – everyone is concerned about what is put on line. We all should be concerned but we should NEVER put anything confidential up on line. See #3 above.
- Professionalism – being a connected superintendent is a professional opportunity. The stigma of being unprofessional because you are on Twitter, LinkedIn or another social media platform no longer exists. The list of connected superintendents grows every day. It is also a great way to address #1, #2, #3, and #4 – well you get it by now.
In the presentation, I discussed and demonstrated how being a connected superintendent provides an opportunity for:
Communication with Stakeholders – This can be done with Twitter, Facebook, or another social media service. It provides a glimpse into the school day, provides images of events and activities, and gives the NOW Generation information at their finder tips.
Community Engagement – Bring interest in to what is happening in your schools by starting a hashtag. We used #ChargersontheRoad to show charger pride during the summer as our students and families traveled. They sent us pictures of where they were and we would pin it to a Google map. We also use #ChargerPride in posts to highlight great things happening in the classrooms. Joe Sanefelippo uses #GoCrickets. Find something that works for you.
Learning – Through our district YouTube Channel, Tech Tuesday Tips, and our PD Academy we stress the importance of EdTech in the classroom for learning and sharing. I also shared the value of Voxer for superintendents to connect with colleagues around the country and beyond.
Organizing / Efficiency – There are a ton of apps and Chrome extensions available for superintendents to use that will help organize daily events and make us more efficient in what we do. I shared Google Keep to create shared agendas and lists, Highly to highlight on-line text and send that text to others, digital Sticky Notes to post on your computer (be careful, these are addicting), Get Pocket to save articles, QR Coding for recruitment, Jing to grab images, Doodle to organize a meeting event, and live binders to reduce paper use. There are so many more out there but these are a few of my favorites that I personally use.
Towards the end of the session I discussed the value of being a connected educator and advocating for our profession. We need to understand that:
At no other time in our profession have we had access to so many with the opportunity to positively advocate for our profession at any time, any date, or any place.
There are many avenues for advocacy as a connected educator. They include joining #ASuperDay, being part of the EdCamp movement, or joining a Google Community. But if you do not connect then you limit your ability and chances to improve education. It’s my belief that this isn’t fair to the students, staff, and community we represent as their superintendent.
The bottom line is that today’s superintendent should connect for his/her own learning, to improve the instruction in the schools he/she leads, to enhance the learning of the students, and ultimately to positively advocate for our profession, our students, and our teachers.