How to Lead 21st Century Schools

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via Photopin creative commons

via Photopin creative commons

How to Lead 21st Century Schools

by Lynne Schrum and Barbara B. Levin

Not too long ago all schools expected learners to “check their web devices at the door” but that is no longer true. With the emergence of Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD), and 1:1 rollouts in schools throughout the country, suddenly the use of social media is a hot topic. And, we know that educators are always ready for an opportunity to be creative, communicative, and collaborative with learners, colleagues, and families.

Social media includes websites and applications that enable users to create and share content and to participate in social networking. Current educator favorites include Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube. Are there really ways these social media tools promote learning? Let’s explore just a few of the many ways that educators are using the social nature of these tools to enrich their classrooms.

Teachers and learners post pictures of their activities, learning experiences, and presentations on multiple social media to memorialize and publicize to the wider community. Additional favorites include Animoto, Voki, Instagram, and Teacher Tube.

Learners have a wide variety of ways to document and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding; they can post videos, podcasts, and Prezi presentations to share with others. They can share their questions or pose problems to each other via Twitter.

Some teachers create study questions and tweet them to their students. They can readily communicate with peers, seek out experts, and for those reluctant to write much, have the ability to communicate succinctly. Using Twitter, students can gather research, receive homework alerts, collaborate quickly, and more. Twitter accounts keep learners in the know and also share updates with families. School leaders are using Twitter to inform the community, but also to celebrate success, and share items with staff.

Teachers assess student learning through PollEverywhere, and identify in real time what knowledge may need reteaching and to whom. They can post course curriculum on private social networks (e.g., Schoology.com and Edmodo.com), and even differentiate assignments.

Pinterest, a visual tool where you can post and find ideas for projects and interests, began as a way to share many hobbies and passions; however, now you can find information about a wide variety of educational ideas, links to others for collaborative projects, reading lists, ways certain apps are being used, and more.

Many teachers are sharing with each other in a “virtual staffroom” model, where content or grade level groups work together and share. These virtual groups even find ways to meet in “real time” to share or assist each other with challenges. For example, there are educational hashtags about math, project based learning, and teaching 2030.

Social media is here to stay; we can bar it from our classrooms or we can embrace its potential and find ways to engage our community, expand professional development opportunities, and broaden the curricular possibilities for all our learners.

Lynne Schrum and Barbara B. Levin are the authors of Leading 21st Century Schools: Leveraging Technology for Engagement and Achievement (2nd edition), available in April, 2015.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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